Environmental Impacts of Different Milks

By Lauren Benson

Environmental impacts of different milks


With So many different options for milk, it can be hard to tell which one to choose. Some options are not as good as others, environmentally wise. Here is information on how some of these options affect the environment:


Cow’s milk- Dairy milk is by the far the worst choice, environmentally wise, when it comes to milk options. The production of cow’s milk is responsible for around 4% of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. According to InsideClimate News, every gallon of milk consumed causes 17.6 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. It takes 273 gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk, from start to finish. Dairy milk uses the most land, there are around 270 million dairy cows in the world. Cows require a lot more space than almonds or oats do. Cows release methane through their burps and farts- which is terrible for the environment.


Almond Milk- There are 104.6 grams of greenhouse gas emissions released per gallon of almond milk produced. To put that in perspective, 104.6 grams is only 0.23 pounds, compared to dairy milk’s 17.6 pounds. According to Green Optimistic News, it takes 920 gallons of water to produce one gallon of almond milk. The reason it takes so much water to produce almond milk is because it takes around 1.1 gallons of water to grow one almond. Almond milk is still more environmentally friendly than dairy milk, but it is not the best option because of its high water usage. 


Oat Milk- Oat milk produces slightly more greenhouse gas emissions per gallon than almond milk, but significantly less than dairy milk. Oat milk has one of the lowest water usages out of all the different milk options, it takes about 145 gallons to make one gallon of oat milk. According to Medium News, the production of oat milk uses 80% less land than dairy milk.  On the down side, larger amounts of pesticides are used in the production of most oat milks, but this problem can be solved by going organic. Not to mention, oat milk is my personal favorite option. 


Soy Milk- The production of soy milk emits around the same amount of greenhouse gasses as almond milk. Edible Brooklyn stated that it takes less than a tenth of the water used to produce almond milk to produce soy milk. Growing soybeans, which are used to produce soy milk, is great for the soil and the environment because of its natural benefits, like nitrogen fixation. Soy milk’s downfall is its land usage, parts of the amazon rainforest are deforested to grow soybeans. Most of this deforestation to produce soybeans is utilized to feed animals like the dairy cows, not to make soy milk. After all, soy milk is still a great option. 


Hemp Milk- Hemp milk uses less water than almond milk and cow’s milk, but a little bit more than oat and soy milk. Hemp is a strong plant that requires very little pesticides, making it pretty eco friendly. Hemp milk is still a relatively new milk, so there is not too much data available on its environmental impact yet. 


If you want to do a small act of care for the planet, maybe next time you go to the store pick up a carton of non-dairy milk to put in your cereal, or order oat milk in your coffee!