December 16, 2021 4 min read

At this point in time, most consumers are aware of the fact that dairy-free is the way to be if you want to reduce your carbon footprint. In fact, in one study, the University of Oxford found that one glass of cow's milk results in almost three times as many greenhouse gas emissions and nine times more land use than the equivalent amount of  plant-based milk1. But is swapping your dairy creamer with a splash of almond milk really the best way to go? Is there a more sustainable alternative?

While we know that plant-based milks in general are better for the environment, we also know that measuring  sustainability isn't quite that simple. When considering if something is "good for the planet", there are actually quite a few factors to consider - greenhouse gas emissions, land use, water use, the use of pesticides, and soil degradation, to name a few.

The Truth About Almond Milk's Environmental Impact

Almond Milk's Water Usage

Although it may produce fewer greenhouse emissions than dairy milk, almond milk production takes a toll on the environment in other ways. US almonds, 80% of world production, are grown in California, irrigated by water from remote sources that are rapidly drying up. Without a steady flow of imported water, almonds cannot survive. This is sure to have long term effects on drought-stricken California, where 80% of the world's commercial almond production takes place2. In fact, the ground in the San Joaquin Valley, where most almonds are grown, is already sinking each year due to groundwater depletion3.

almond milk water usage

Impact On Bees

One impact of the almond industry that is often overlooked is the strain it puts on the pollinator population. Because the almond is not native to California, European honey bees must also be brought in to pollinate almond crops. Every winter, farmers import European honey bees from all over the country to pollinate over 1 million acres of almond trees. These European bees displace native bees critical for pollinating native plants.  Commercial beekeepers who send their hives to almond farms are seeing their bees die in record numbers, something they attribute to pesticide and parasite exposure while on the job. On top of the threat of disease, almond pollination is uniquely demanding for bees because they are aroused from winter dormancy about two months earlier than is natural for them to pollinate a huge number of trees (apples, America's second largest pollination crop, use only one-tenth the number of bees as almond trees)4.

almond milk impact on bees

Problematic Monoculture

With any kind of produce or crop that's in high demand and primarily grown in one region, much of the natural landscape in Central California has been converted to almond farms. This has led to what's known as a monoculture - essentially, one species is so prominent in an area that other plants can no longer inhabit the region. This is a problem, because biodiversity is essential for soil fertilization, nutrient recycling, pest and disease regulation, erosion control and pollination. Research has actually shown that as plant biodiversity declines, bees produce fewer offspring and colonies shrink in size as a result.5

almond tree monoculture

Pesticide Use

Perhaps one of the most concerning aspects of almond milk production is the heavy use of pesticides - almonds are sprayed with more pesticides than any other crop in California6. The USDA Pesticide Data Program has found residues of nine different pesticides on almonds, five of which are toxic to honey bees7. One of the most widely applied pesticides is the herbicide glyphosate (also known as Roundup), which is a staple of large-scale almond growers and has been shown to be lethal to bees as well as cause cancer in humans8. Pesticide use has contributed to contamination of California’s already limited water sources especially for farm communities. 

pesticide use on almond trees

So, Which Is The Most Environmentally Friendly Milk?

While it's safe to say that non-dairy milks are better for the environment in general, each milk alternative has its own environmental impact to consider. Similar to almond milk, soy milk production can take quite a toll on the land - soybeans are grown in massive quantities and large areas of rainforest have been cleared to make way for soy farms. Oat milk generally has a low impact on the environment, but most oats are grown in mass-produced operations and are sprayed with pesticides that contain glyphosate. Rice milk has been found to be one of the largest producers of greenhouse gas emissions of any other plant-based milk.9

Enter THIS PKN, the non-dairy pecan milk that is on a mission to become the most environmentally-friendly plant-based milk. Pecans are native to Texas, and do a lot for the local ecosystem. Since they're native plants, they support microbes, insects, and other plants that help the Texas landscape thrive. Pecan trees are drought resistant - they grow with rain rather than irrigated water, and they’re bee friendly! Pecans don’t require bees for pollination, and are part of the native plant ecosystem that supports native bees10.

this pkn pecan milk

pecanmilk for more than a year without refrigeration, reducing food waste.

The bottom line is, determining which plant-based milk is best for the environment depends on what factors you're considering. But you can reach for a bottle of THIS PKN with confidence knowing that it's a non-dairy milk striving to do more.