Plant-based milk and other alternatives have had an escalating popularity, leaving dairy milk sales at a sweeping decline. Coming in at the top of the plant milk popularity pyramid is almond milk. This shining star however has some downsides that go overlooked.
Non-dairy milk has grown 61 percent since 2012, this extensive list includes almond, coconut, cashew, hazelnut, hemp, oat, pea, peanut, pecan, quinoa, rice, soy, walnut, and more. From the fame of the new almond celebrity, there comes a big profit, leading to more almond orchards being planted. More than 80 percent of the world’s almonds come from orchards that are located in California. This location presents a few issues that seem hidden in plain sight.
The most prominent quality of these tiny nuts is that they soak up 1.1 gallons (5 liters) of water just to produce one individual almond. This factor makes them the thirstiest of the nut family, and with their main region being in California, raises some concern. When considering the environmental footprint of a product, some of the variables studied are greenhouse gas emissions, land use, soil degradation, chemical runoff, and water use. Drilling aquifers to pump out water to meet the consumption demand of the crop threatens infrastructure and could trigger earthquakes.
Adopting a vegan lifestyle also commonly comes with an inherent concern for the sustainability of the planet. Almond milk not being the wisest choice in that regard and more people ditching the product, the spotlight is left open for a new celebrity, oat milk.
Out of all the dairy milk alternatives, oat milk requires the least amount of water. While oat milk produces 80 percent less greenhouse gas emissions, uses 60 percent less energy, and takes up 80 percent less land than cow milk, it also takes ⅙ the amount of water to produce a pound of oats than almonds.
There’s a clear winner when it comes to sustainability. Yes, any shift toward more ethical, plant-based living is a good thing, maybe think twice at the grocery store before picking up a carton of almond milk. Chances are if you look a little to the side, oat milk will be sitting there gorgeously on the shelf, daring you to pick it up. Accept the challenge, you won’t regret it.