Milk is an integral part of our everyday life and diet. Since childhood, we have been told that a glass of milk has sufficient nutrients for the growth and development of a child. However, people are becoming aware of the real and cruel side of the dairy industry.
Thus, people are switching to other milk alternatives like soy milk, oat milk, almond milk, and other plant-based variants. Although the plant-based option still sounds promising, there is an aspect that people might not know.
In the making of this plant-based milk, there can be a potential negative impact on the environment. with people switching to plant-based options like coconut milk, soy milk, oat milk, almond milk, and others. Although there are many health benefits associated with these alternatives, we still need to know about the other side of plant-based products.
One of the most popular alternatives is Oat milk which also has numerous health benefits. Thus, today we are going to discuss the environmental effect of oat milk and its carbon footprint. Is it really sustainable? So let’s have a look at what goes behind the manufacturing of oat milk.
Oat milk’s environmental impact
Oat milk is one of the most popular plant-based milk. Moreover, it’s not only tasty and nutritious but also has a positive effect on the environment compared to other alternatives. Oat milk has the lowest carbon footprint, and it’s creamier and tastier than other plant-based options.
Oat milk represents 17 percent of the total plant-based milk market in the united states. However, there are several ways through which we can analyze the environmental impact of oat milk, such as:
Amount of Water required to make a liter of milk
These are the main categories through which we can analyze and observe the ecological and environmental impact of oat milk. Let’s have a look at each of these aspects individually.
Water scarcity is a global issue, and many countries are dealing with drought and lower groundwater levels. Thus, One of the primary things that we notice while taking the ecological and environmental impact of milk is the amount of water required to make a liter of milk.
To produce one liter of oat milk, farmers need 48 liters which is almost 13 gallons. This might sound a lot, but compared to other alternatives, it’s one of the most efficient and eco-friendly.
You’ll be surprised to know that 628 liters of water are required to produce a liter of cow milk. Whereas 371 liters of water are needed to process the same amount of almond milk. 270 liters of water to produce a liter of rice milk.
For a better understanding of water usage, you can have a look at the table below:
A liter of Milk
Now, after going through the above data, we can figure out that oat milk requires a very less amount of water as compared to other plant-based milk alternatives.
Greenhouse gas emission
While analyzing the ecological and environmental impact, the first thing that pop-up into our mind is greenhouse gases and their emission. While producing, transporting, and processing anything, there is emission and release of greenhouse gases into the environment.
Oat milk has the least amount of carbon footprint compared to other types of milk. When we talk about greenhouse gases, we talk about the emission of gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), and ozone.
These gases get trapped in the atmosphere and contribute to the rise in the temperature of the earth. However, while growing oat, transporting them, and processing the milk, there is a release of these gases into the atmosphere.
As it is impossible to grow something without any emission or release of these gases into the air. However, oat milk releases 80 percent fewer greenhouse gases into the environment than cow’s milk. Moreover, the approximate carbon footprint of Oat milk is around 40 pounds per 7-ounce glass. Which is very low compared to other milk varieties.
Ecological footprint and impact
Ecological footprint can be measured by the impact a particular thing or product has on the ecosystem and flora, and fauna. However, during the production of any grain, farmers use chemicals like pesticides, fertilizers, fungicides, and herbicides. To some extent, all these chemicals impact the environment and are toxic to the land.
These chemicals include toxic components like
glyphosate isopropylamine salt, 2,4-D
All these chemicals are moderately harmful to the environment as they will eventually get into the soil and can potentially damage the ecological balance of the environment. Moreover, these have less impact on the wildlife and almost no effect on the bee population of that area.
Land usage is a major aspect when considering the environmental impact of any product, especially any plant-based product. However, the production of oats is not restricted to any particular region, and they can be grown on a variety of land. Which means they won’t take up a majority of the land in a single geographical area.
We can evenly distribute the production and growing land for oats as per convenience. Unlike almond which requires a particular region and has many other restrictions as well due to which they can be grown on a specific landmass.
For example, 100 percent of commercial almond production in the united states is grown in California. Moreover, almond production in California covers about 1.6 million acres of land in California.
Thus, oat milk is much more efficient in terms of land usage than other alternatives.
Impact of Oat milk Vs. Other alternatives
From the above discussion, we can have an estimate of how oat milk impacts the environment. Now let’s compare it with other milk alternatives such as cow’s milk, soy milk, Almond milk, and Rice milk. This will give us a better understanding and helps us to come to a conclusion.
We all know about the cruelty that happens in the dairy industry and how the dairy industry is linked to the slaughter of millions of cows and their babies. However, it also has the most negative impact on the environment as well. Research has shown that cow’s milk is the worst milk for the environment and ecological balance.
Compared to any plant-based drink, cow’s milk has 3 times more carbon footprint than others. Moreover, seven ounces of cow’s milk released around .6 pounds of carbon dioxide which is higher than any plant-based milk.
As mentioned above, making a liter of cow’s milk require somewhere between 628 to 1050 liters of water. Which is the maximum compared to others. All of these reasons make cow’s milk the worst and most harmful to the environment.
Soy milk is a popular alternative and has many nutritional benefits. Now let’s have a look at the ecological effects of soy milk. Talking about the carbon emission of soy milk, it releases 33 percent less carbon dioxide than cow’s milk.
In processing a liter of soy milk, 28 liters of water is required, which is even less than oat milk, making it a better option than the rest of the options.
Almond milk is the first choice of people when it comes to choosing plant-based milk. This is in much more demand than other plant-based milk. However, it has many negative effects on the environment.
It requires much more land usage to grow and process almond milk. Moreover, it also has a bigger carbon footprint than other alternatives of milk. On top of that, the amount of water required to produce a liter of almond milk is much higher than oat milk.
Rice milk has slightly less impact on the environment than cow’s milk but has a much more negative impact than all the other plant-based options. It has the highest amount of greenhouse gas emissions.
With that being said, it requires less land usage than oat milk. Still taking all other options into consideration, it cannot be considered good for the environment in comparison to Oat milk.
How can we Minimize the negative environmental impact of Oat milk?
As it is clear from the above discussion that oat milk has a significantly less negative impact on the environment. Thus, if you are planning to switch to non-dairy products, this is probably the best option for you.
Moreover, oat milk requires less land and water to be made. All these factors make oat milk a better choice than other plant-based options.
However, by conscious efforts, we can reduce its impact on the environment. You can start step by step, such as opting for organic and smaller brands. There are many brands available in the market that support organic farming.
Hence, this will reduce the usage of pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals that are used while harvesting a crop.
The best thing that you can do is to make oat milk at home, which will reduce the carbon footprint and emission of greenhouse gases. Moreover, making oat milk at home is very simple, and if you are a beginner like me, here are a few easy steps that you need to follow:
Making oat milk at home
All you need to do is mix 1 cup of oats and add 4 cups of water.
Add this to a blender and blend it well.
Once you get a uniform consistency.
Strain this mixture out from a mesh cloth or strainer.
Now pulp will strain out from the milk, and you’ll have fresh oat milk at home.
This is best for any beverage you want, such as a creamy cup of coffee or even tea this will go with everything.
Moreover, if you haven’t tasted oat milk yet, let me tell you, it tastes delicious and has a nutty flavor to it that will compliment all your beverages. This way, you can have a glass full of nutrients without creating any excess impact on the environment.
After all the above discussion, if you ask me, is oat milk harmful to the environment? My answer would be no, it’s not harmful to the environment. Just like every product has a certain impact on the environment. Similarly, oat does have an impact on the environment, but it’s very less compared to all the other milk alternatives.
So if you are looking for a healthy, clean, cruelty-free, and dairy-free alternative to milk, Oat milk is the best choice for you. Trust me and give this a try, and you won’t regret it.