With so many reasons to ditch dairy and tons of options to choose from, more of us are turning to non-dairy milks and giving the cows a rest. While there’s a lot of talk about which alt-milk is the best for us, here are considerations for determining which alt-milk is best for sustainability.
Where does the water come from?
With nut milks in particular, a LOT of water is used to produce the nuts that form the milk’s base, but the most important question is whether the water sources are sustainable. This is why there’s been such a debate over almond milk (60% of alt milk purchases are almond!), as most of the almonds used are grown in water-scarce California. Almond farming in California is getting more and more water-efficient, but try other nuts grown in areas less prone to drought (like macadamia, coconuts, hazelnuts, cashews, and pecans).
Where is it from?
With the California-water conundrum, it might be tempting to turn towards alt milks with ingredients grown elsewhere. But often this means your ingredients will be coming from Europe or even Australia, and taking additional water to transport. This isn’t cut-and-dry either though, as the ways nuts are processed elsewhere can also be water-saving and “make up” for the distance they travel. It may feel super hard to keep track of all of this, but generally brands make a note of where their main ingredients are from, especially if they travel far!
Make it yourself!
Of course, a great alternative to all this distance calculation and California chaos is to get your non-dairy milks and nuts local if its feasible for you. Small-batch alt milk makers and nut farmers are generally a more sustainable option, as there’s little to no industrial scale farming or transport. More points to you if you buy the nuts and make the milk yourself :)