Which Milk Is The Most Sustainable?
When you compare the environmental impact of dairy based and plant based milks it’s pretty clear which of the 2 is more sustainable. But which plant based milk is the most eco-friendly?
1. Almond Milk
As one of the most popular milk alternatives, almond milk has many benefits such as being low in calories, lactose free and high in calcium. However these benefits may be offset by the environmental aspects of almond milk production. According to a report by The Guardian, Almonds are very water intensive and take 5 litres of water just to produce a single almond. Overall, almond milk may not be the most sustainable. However, if you can find locally grown almond milk, that could be a better option.
2. Coconut Milk
As another popular dairy alternative, coconut milk boasts many pros such as benefiting weight loss, body composition and metabolism. However, coconuts now occupy 12 million hectares of land which is slightly similar to the 18 million required for palm oil production. Nutritionally, coconut milk is a great source of natural vitamins and minerals. But it is one of the more expensive alternatives.
3. Soy Milk
Soy milk is a staple in many cultures residing in Asia. They are a great source of protein, calcium, potassium and are low in saturated fat. When it comes to water use, soy typically uses around 28% of the amount usually used for dairy production which is approximately 9500 litres of water per tonne of soybeans. Furthermore, as WWF’s Plow Print report for 2016 shows, in the years from 2009 to 2016, over 53 million acres of grasslands in the US were ploughed to grow soya, corn and wheat. When buying soy milk ensure you buy organic and locally grown produce as these sources have a typically lower footprint due to less irrigation.
4. Rice Milk
Although rice milk may taste great and is relatively inexpensive, it unfortunately has a large water footprint compared to other choices – with 1kg of rice requiring approximately 3000 litres of water. According to an Oxford study, it produces more greenhouse gas emissions than any other plant milk.
5. Oat Milk (The Most Sustainable)
Oat milk is lactose free, nutritionally high in fibre and vitamins, and is low in fat compared to alternatives like coconut milk. Oat milk is potentially one of the best milks to consume from an environmental perspective due to it’s low input. It produces relatively lower amounts of greenhouse gas and requires only one-eighth the amount of water that almond milk production uses. According to Bloomberg Business, oat milk sales in the US have skyrocketed from $4.4m in 2017 to $29m in 2019. These numbers surpass almond milk as the fastest-growing and most accessible dairy alternative.