Does switching to oat milk save the planet? It certainly helps.
An action as simple as which type of milk you choose to drink in your coffee can add up to a significant amount of your daily greenhouse gas emission. This may seem counter-intuitive initially — surely it matters more that we have a modern, energy efficient kettle, and only fill it with the amount of water we need, in order to make our coffee eco-friendly?
The truth is, if you take milk in your coffee, that will account for about two-thirds of the carbon footprint of the drink.
- Environmental Impact: Why Oat Milk is Better than Dairy
- Beginning Your Transition to Oat Milk
- Oat Milk: Long-term Potential for Growth
- Creating Oat Milk: Cooler Climates & Reducing Deforestation
- The Bottom Line
Environmental Impact: Why Oat Milk is Better than Dairy
Food production accounts for 25% of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. It’s an enormous factor in our personal environmental footprints, and in the environmental impact of humanity as a whole. Responsible for approximately 15% of our worldwide greenhouse gas emissions, the production of animals for food has the most significant impact of all food types.
For example, a cup of coffee made with additional cow’s milk produces around 53 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e). The same cup of coffee without milk equates to around 21g of CO2e — less than half the footprint. Switching from dairy to a non-dairy milk reduces carbon emissions of that food item by over half.
While non-dairy milks require more processing energy to be created than dairy milks, they are actually much better for the environment as a whole.
Let’s break it down.
How Choosing Oat Milk Reduces Greenhouse Gas Emissions
A 200ml glass of oat milk is responsible for around 0.18kg of CO2e. That’s significantly less than soy or cow’s milk.
Overall, producing oat milk releases 80% less greenhouse gas emissions than cow’s milk, so you can feel good about your carbon footprint anytime you choose oat milk.
Why Oat Milk is a Great Start for Water Conservation
Did you know that it takes 628 litres of water to produce only one litre of cow's milk? Almond milk isn't much better, clocking in at 371 litres of water to produce one litre. Two Bears Oat Milk uses only 48 litres of water to produce a litre, meaning for every glass of cow's milk, you can enjoy 13 glasses of oat milk.
In terms of water consumption, oat milk has a much lower impact than other milks, including almond milk, soy milk, and pea milk. When it comes to conserving water, switching to oat milk is a great start.
Why Oat Milk is More Energy Efficient
Here's a few more numbers for you, it takes 60% less energy to produce a litre of oat milk than a litre of cow's milk. Imagine the power it takes to drive an 18-wheeler truck, now imagine how much it takes to drive a Smart Car. That's how big the difference is.
How Switching to Oat Milk Saves Land
Oats use 80% less land to grow than dairy milk requires. Land is a limited resource; this fact alone leaves so much more space to sustainably grow the other foods that make it to your family's dinner table.
Key Environmental Takeaways
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. The main insight here, however, is that in terms of environmental impact, the biggest thing that you can do is to reduce the amount of animal products in your diet, and start using non dairy milk in your coffee.
Beginning Your Transition to Oat Milk
Many of us have been conditioned from an early age to view cow’s milk as a nutritious option, necessary for the development of our bodies — we view dairy milk as a food item as an essential element of our ideal, balanced, everyday diet. Oftentimes, it can feel starting for people to realize that the dairy industry is cruel and ultimately unethical. When we look beyond the surface-level marketing it is easy to see that oat milk is a more environmentally-friendly option than dairy.
Currently, oat milk represents a small fraction of the total plant-based milk sales in the United States, but Chris Ross, vice president of marketing and research development at dairy giant HP Hood, predicts this is going to change.
Oat Milk: Long-term Potential for Growth
Demand for oat milk is growing, with U.S. sales in 2020 year surpassing those of coconut milk and soy milk. According to data from Nielsen, almond milk is still the most popular among dairy alternatives, accounting for about two-thirds of the market with $1.6 billion in sales (2020), however, U.S. oat milk sales tripled in the past year, following a sevenfold boost the prior year.
According to Bloomberg Business, retail sales of oat milk in the United States alone grew from $4.4M in 2017 to $29M in 2019, leap-frogging almond milk as the fastest-growing dairy alternative. However, while almonds are scarce and require more resources to produce, there are existing repositories of oats and sustainable ways to repurpose oat production assets that have been entrenched in the process of cultivating animal feed.
That’s right, not only is creating oat milk environmentally friendly, growth in oat milk also directly impacts a transition away from the animal-based food production industry. This is extremely promising for the environment.
Creating Oat Milk: Cooler Climates & Reducing Deforestation
The oats that are grown to create oat milk are cultivated in cooler climates such as the northern United States and Canada, and do not contribute to deforestation in developing countries.
In a 2020 article with The Guardian, Liz Specht, associate director of science and technology for the Good Food Institute, a not-for-profit that promotes plant-based diets, was quoted as saying, “I’m excited about the surge in oat milk popularity.”
“Right now, 50 to 90% of global oat production goes into animal feed,” says Specht, “so there’s a huge existing acreage that we can safely steal share from without moving the needle at all on total production.”
“Oat milk performs very well on all sustainability metrics,” Spect added. “I highly doubt there will be unintended environmental consequences that might emerge when the scale of oat milk use gets larger.”
Looking ahead, many believe oat milk will continue to grab more market share from other plant-based milk substitutes and be more successful at attracting dairy drinkers, D.A. Davidson analyst Brian Holland said in an interview.
“I think it has the potential to be bigger than almond milk,” he added.
The Bottom Line
Now you're ready to make more informed decisions about the milk you add to your coffee! Understanding the ins and outs of what goes into making the ideal cup of coffee empowers you to enjoy your favourite beverage in a healthy way, both for you and for the planet, guilt free.
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