Green Tip: Choosing the “Greenest” Milk Alternative

Green Tips | June 2, 2017

Choosing the most environmentally-friendly foods can be challenging, especially when it comes to dairy and dairy-alternatives. Almond milk, in particular, has been hailed by environmentalists as a great substitute for traditional dairy milk- but is it really the “greenest”?


Almond milk is extremely water-intensive, using an estimated 23 gallons of water for the production of a single glass of milk. One almond takes 1.1 gallons to produce, and much more water is needed for transforming these nuts into a frothy, milk-like substance.

Although the amount of water needed to create almond milk is less than the amount required for traditional milk, nearly all of the U.S.’s almonds come from California, where water-scarcity is a pressing issue. In order to avoid putting added pressure on drought-stricken California, other milk alternatives that can be grown in water abundant places are an attractive option.

Air and Water Pollution

On many other fronts, however, almond milk can be considered better for the environment than dairy milk. For instance, greenhouse gas emissions from dairy milk are far higher than emissions from almond milk, in part because of the large amounts of methane that cows release every day.

Similarly, waste from cows can pollute watersheds and have devastating impacts. Runoff from agriculture in the Mississippi River has even created a “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico that is the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined. These dead zones drastically reduce the amount of oxygen in water and can result in massive fish kills which impacts local communities as well as wildlife.


Both dairy and almond milk have negative environmental impacts that should be considered when choosing a milk product. Thankfully, there are other options at your local supermarket that are less water-intensive and minimize air and water pollution. Coconuts and cashews, for instance, can be grown in water-abundant areas and have a small carbon footprint.

One of the most exciting new milk products is pea-milk, which claims to use less water than any other milk-alternative and comes in a 100% post-consumer recycled bottle. Pea-milk is a good source of protein and tastes like milk, without the negative environmental consequences.

So, next time you are in the milk section opt for a more environmentally-friendly alternative to almond or dairy milk- choose cashew, coconut, or pea milk!

By: Korinna Garfield

< Back to Citizen’s Toolkit

Get Involved