Is Almond Milk Bad For The Environment?

By Lilia McDonald on June 13 2020 in Environment

Almond milk. Image credit: Sea Wave/Shutterstock.com
Almond milk. Image credit: Sea Wave/Shutterstock.com
  • Almond milk uses more water than other plant-based dairy alternatives.
  • Almond blossoms are killing honey bees.
  • Transportation of almond milk increases emissions.

Soy-free, dairy-free, and vegan-friendly are the qualities that brand almond milk in a sweetly positive light. Almonds are praised for their several health benefits, such as aiding weight loss, preventing diabetes, decreasing risk of cancer-cell growth, and others. In fact, almonds contain antioxidants, omega 3 fats, and Vitamin E (promotes a healthy immune system). When processed into almond milk, however, trouble stirs and the environment suffers as a result.

Almond Milk's Water-Intensive Properties

An almond farm. Image credit: Real Window Creative/Shutterstock.com

Almond milk consumes a higher concentration of water in comparison to other dairy alternatives. California, the state producing and supplying more than 80% of the world's almonds is especially deteriorating because of a consequent droughting effect. To make matters worse, almond trees consistently require water throughout the year, even when they are not growing almonds.

California's Mediterranean climate with its hot, dry summers leads to a drought that forces the almond farmers to drill down into groundwater which causes subsidence, or gradual sinking, of roads, canals, and bridges. This kind of infrastructure instability can even trigger earthquakes to occur.

Although almonds need a substantial amount of water, cow milk still ranks higher in water consumption. At a typical dairy farm, for instance, the cows must be kept hydrated with water throughout the day, and milking parlors plus equipment are to be sanitized using, unsurprisingly, water.

Almonds Harm Bees and Salmon

Due to the inclusion of pesticide use, commercial almonds toxify already low quantities of water sources by contaminating drinking water in California farms. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Pesticide Data Program discovered nine different pesticides on almond groves, five of which are killing honey bees. These nuts need pollination from bees, though, in order for each almond blossom to grow.

Not only are the bees at risk, the endangered king salmon inhabiting within California's Klamath River face gill rot, a disease which can be brought upon by poor water conditions. With water levels diverting to almond farms, the king salmon unfortunately end up with less than their fair share.

Almond Milk Drive Up Emissions And Prices

Almond milk is also responsible for transportation emissions if consumers purchase this milk far way from its main producing countries like Spain, US, Iran, and Morocco. Of course, with increased demand there is increased production which hikes prices over time. Almond milk then evolves into a luxury product for the 'chattering' middle to higher classes.

Alternatives

Rice milk. Image credit: Rimma Bondarenko/Shutterstock.com

To truly benefit from drinking almond milk and lessen some guilt when considering its damaging effect on the environment, it is advisable to seek an organic, non-sweetened, and carrageenan-free version to balance mental health and cholesterol levels. Carrageenan is a stabilizer and thickening agent that is best avoided as it sometimes causes digestive issues for certain individuals. If drinking almond milk seems displeasing at this point, there are plenty of plant-based dairy substitutes such as hemp or rice milk that are beneficial for you and the Earth itself. Whatever your personal choice is, it is your conscientious effort of improving the environment that matters significantly.

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