This article is written by PlantBaby's Board Certified Pediatrician, Dr. Joel Gator Warsh
The world has a thirst for plant-based milk. Recent Nielsen data shows that sales of cow’s milk dropped while sales of plant-based milks have continued to rise. In fact, U.S. milk consumption has been falling for decades.
In the last few years, sales of dairy free milks have risen 23%, according to Nielsen data. Alternatives have become popular as health-conscious consumers have grown wary of dairy.
Trendy coffee shops have also introduced their customers to dairy free milks by making lattes and coffee beverages with milk alternatives.
But another factor besides trendiness is often overlooked. With consumers now thinking, not only with their wallets, but with environmental impact in mind, the question that many are posing is what are the environmental footprints of the various milks which they are deciding between.
When examining a product’s environmental footprint, variables like greenhouse gas emissions, water use, land use, chemical runoff, and soil degradation must all be considered. The footprint expands the life of the product from growing the raw ingredient to processing and transportation and waste.
Environmental Impact of Plant-Based Milks
Any plant-based milk — whether it’s made from grains, nuts, or seeds — has a smaller impact than dairy milk when it comes to water and land use, as well as carbon emissions.
In fact, a 2018 study estimated that dairy milk produces around three times more greenhouse gas emissions than plant-based milks to produce. What’s more, dairy generally requires nine times more land than any of the plant-based alternatives.
Plant-based milks are a trendy and up-and-coming option for milk consumption. Further, they appear to have a significantly beneficial environmental footprint when compared to cow’s milk. I haven’t had a tall glass of cow’s milk for decades and I don’t plan to start any time soon. I will continue to reach for the plant-based alternatives.