Dairy versus non-dairy milks

Dairy versus non-dairy milks

Have you ever wondered about the environmental impact of dairy milk versus non-dairy milks?

There is a massive amount of grain, soy and grass needed to feed dairy cows and the amount of energy it takes to turn their raw milk into an actual consumer product is very high. Additionally, cows have a very high methane output which is very harmful for the planet (they burb, poop and fart a LOT). Just 13 of the top dairy firms emit as much greenhouse gases as the UK does altogether. This number has grown with 11% since the Paris Climate Change Agreement in 2016.


It really is time to start drinking alternative milks.

Photography Credit: Viktory

The production of plant-based milks have far - far - less of a carbon footprint compared to dairy milk. Even between the non-dairy milks there are big differences in their environmental impact. If you drink one glass of dairy milk per day for a year, the amount of greenhouse gases released would equate to 229kg and the use of almost 46,000 liters of water. This would be 51kg of greenhouse gases and 27,000 liters of water for almond milk, and 65kg and 3,500 liters for oat milk.

Growing soybeans also have a damaging effect on our ecosystems, but most of the soy production on earth ends up as food for our cows. Soy beans use more carbon emissions than almonds do but less than rice milk. Rice milk is the second highest in emissions output and water use after dairy milk.



You often buy non-dairy milks in Tetrapak, which is both a good and bad thing. The production of Tetrapak takes a lot less energy and resources than glass or plastic packaging do in their production. But Tetrapak is hard to recycle and most councils don’t actually have the capability to do so. A lot of Tetrapak packaging ends up in landfill, which adds to more pollution. Glass can be recycled endlessly but it does cost a lot of energy to create. Plastic packaging is made from fossil fuels and cannot be endlessly recycled.

Read more about Tetrapak here and about plastic recycling here.


It's hard to choose the best option for the environment, as it feels we need to choose between emissions during production or packaging ending up in landfill and contributing carbon emissions after use.

The best option is to make your own non-dairy milk. It is so easy to do, that I haven't tried anything else (oats are also far cheaper than almonds for example). All you need are oats, water, a bit of salt, a blender and a cheesecloth.

Check out this page for my homemade oatmilk recipe.


The Guardian

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