What Milk Should You Buy To Reduce Your Environmental Impact?

Credit: Unsplash / Nathan Dumlao

Cows milk

A 2018 study by researchers at Oxford University concluded that producing a glass of cow’s milk has at least three times more environmental impact than producing a glass of any non-dairy milk.

  • Land use: there are around 270 million dairy cows worldwide. That requires a hell of a lot of land space. Add on top of that the feed crops (mainly soy) needed to keep those 270 million cows alive, and the land required for that.
  • Water use: a litre of cow’s milk uses around 1050 litres of water to produce.

Soy milk

For a long time soy was the only, or at least the most readily available, option for the non-dairy milk drinkers amongst us. When compared to the environmental impact of cow’s milk, soy definitely comes out on top.

  • Water: a litre of soy milk uses around 297 litres of water to produce. This may sound like a huge amount of water, and it is, but it’s less than a third of the water needed to produce cow’s milk.

Almond milk

In terms of impact from emissions, almond milk could be a good choice:

Oat milk

  • Greenhouse gas emissions: a 200ml glass of oat milk is responsible for around 0.18kg of CO2e. That’s slightly more than almond milk, but less than soy or cow’s milk.
  • Water: a litre of oat milk needs about 48 litres of water produce. In terms of water, then, oat milk is much lower impact than other milks.
  • Land: oats use 80% less land to grow than dairy milk requires.

So which milk should I buy?

As you can see from the figures here, there’s a fair amount of variability between different types of milk when it comes to environmental impact. Judging from current data, it seems like oat milk is the most sustainable option, so that would be my best recommendation.

Ramblings on communication and our climate crisis🌱

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store