Free Press column: Is nut milk any better for the environment than cow's milk?

Columnist Kirsty-Jo Muddiman explores the link between switching to nut milk for Veganuary and the impact it has on the environment.

Tuesday, 28th January 2020, 11:45 am
Updated Monday, 3rd February 2020, 1:46 pm

If you are still on the Veganuary drive, you have probably looked to replace your cow milk with a plant-based alternative.

As veganism increases in popularity, the industry is replying with a multitude of products to replace your traditional favourites, including plant-based milk.If part of the reason you chose to go vegan, even if just for the month, was to reduce your environmental impact then you should consider your plant-based milk choice carefully.

Whilst recent scientific studies have claimed that cow milk uses far more water and land than plant-based milk, it’s difficult to find plant-based milk which provides the same nutritional values as cow milk.

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Oat milk - a nut milk alternative to cow's milk.
Oat milk - a nut milk alternative to cow's milk.

If the plant-based milks, Almond and Soy milk has a similar or higher content of calcium when compared with cows milk but these two plant-based milks have an environmental

impact you won’t find in the marketing text.

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Both Almond and Soy are most commonly grown in the continent of America.

The transport of such raw materials, or finished products, has a significant impact on the environment in terms of carbon footprint and pollution.

Tropical rain forests are considered to be the lungs of the planet, processing carbon dioxide into fixed carbon and oxygen and helping to regulate the Earth’s climate.

Commercial Almonds are predominantly grown in California and actually need a fair amount of water to grow in this characteristically dry region.

Almond crops need to be pollinated by honeybees and with the amount of crops in California, thousands of bee colonies are required for the pollinating season.

This practice puts beehives under stress, artificially restricts their diet for a short period, exposes them to disease from other hives and pesticides.

One apiarist sending his bees to service Almond crops in California says, “it’s like sending bees to war”.

If your vegan pledge is intended to be for life, then your choice to substitute cow milk, and what you substitute it with is worth a little research beyond what is printed on the label.