Food - Drink
Which Plant-Based Milk Is The Most Sustainable?
By Claire Redden
Almond Milk
82% of the world’s almonds come from California, and it takes about 3 gallons of water per kernel to grow them. Due to droughts in California, farms unfortunately are using a majority of the state's water that is stored for human consumption, which is something to keep in mind when buying almond products.
Soy Milk
A 2017 study found that growing soybeans requires less than a tenth of the amount of water needed for almonds. Soybeans also don't need nitrogen fertilizers, but they do require phosphorus fertilizers, which can cause "dead zones," or areas of water where marine life cannot live due to a lack of oxygen.
Oat Milk
Oats use the least amount of water compared to other crops grown for plant milk, and oat crops don't require a large amount of land, either. The downside is that oats and oat milk can be contaminated with glyphosate, which has been labeled as a carcinogen for both people and other organisms.
Coconut Milk
Growing coconuts produces low carbon emissions, but these fruits only grow in tropical areas, causing countries like the Philippines and Indonesia to use "mono-cropping," or only planting one type of crop on the same land annually. This causes nutrient degradation in soil and a need for chemical fertilizers.
Rice Milk
Making rice milk uses a similar amount of water to almond milk, leading to about 54 liters of water per glass. Also, most rice is grown in flooded fields that are a perfect environment for methanogenesis, a process that releases methane; farming rice this way creates 12% of the world’s methane gas emissions.
The Winner?
No matter which of these milk alternatives you choose, you're making a more environmentally sound choice than drinking cow's milk. All plant milks have their pros and cons; what it comes down to is your personal preference, what you care about as a consumer, and how you weigh your values.