Combating climate change and avoiding some of its worst side effects is one of humankind’s biggest challenges. It will require a global effort from the biggest governments right down to the individual choices that we make every day. One of the biggest contributing factors to our overall carbon footprint is food production which accounts for around a quarter of total greenhouse gas emissions. A plant-based diet is one of the biggest changes that you can make on an individual level to help make a difference, but with our lives becoming ever more complicated, we want to make the sustainable option an easy choice.
- What is Sustainability?
- How Oat Milk is Better
- No Compromise
- The Bottom Line
What is Sustainability?
But what does it mean to make sustainable choices? Sustainability has become an umbrella term that can mean any product or process that minimizes its negative impact on the earth. When it comes to food production, the main areas to consider are land use, water use and greenhouse gas emissions.
Let's take the most well known of those first: greenhouse gas emissions. Processes that release large amounts of gasses such as carbon dioxide or methane are bad for the environment because those gasses, once in the atmosphere, act like a kind of blanket for the earth and trap in heat (hence the name greenhouse gasses!). This extra heat can drastically alter the climate and the consequences can be catastrophic, from melting ice caps and rising sea levels to droughts and extreme weather patterns.
Next, let's talk about land use. To produce food takes a certain amount of land with some taking vast amounts of land for a small amount of food to the exceptionally space efficient. Food that requires a large amount of land is a problem for a few different reasons. First, not all land can be farmed whether that’s because it's too mountainous, arid, or cold. Second, expanding farming area often means expanding into forest areas. Cutting down trees not only releases lots of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere but limits the earth's ability to naturally reabsorb some of that carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. All of that is on top of the huge ecological damage to natural habitat of often rare species of animals that is done in the process. So we should aim to purchase products that not only can utilize our existing farming land but actually use as little land as possible.
Finally is water usage. 97% of the water on earth is in the oceans and is too salty to drink or to use for producing crops or animals. Of the 3% that is usable, in many places on earth around 70% is used in farming and agriculture. With no viable solution for purifying ocean water on a mass scale and the potential for climate change to make droughts more likely, we should probably be a little bit more careful about the amount of water that we decide to use in our food production.
So those are some of the potential causes and risks of climate change and the reasons why we should all make the most sustainable choices wherever possible, but how does oat milk play into all of this?
How Oat Milk is Better
Now that we know the possible consequences of high levels of greenhouse gas emissions, how can oat milk help prevent them? The amount of greenhouse gasses emitted to produce a glass of dairy milk is almost three times that produced by any plant based milk, and there are a few different reasons for this. During a plant’s life, it absorbs carbon dioxide and emits oxygen; this process helps remove some of the greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere. Animals essentially do the reverse of this, as they take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide and cows also produce large amounts of methane. Feeding dairy cows also takes an enormous amount of food, which carries its own greenhouse gas emissions. The emissions are also closely linked to land use as deforestation is so often involved in order to expand farmable land for cows.
Dairy cows need land to roam plus the extra land required to grow food. Sadly in many areas of the world, this involves mass deforestation. Currently, somewhere between 50 and 90% of global oat production goes into animal feed. This is great news since it means that as more and more make the move to a plant-based diet, we can do so without having to increase the amount of land needed to farm. In terms of land efficiency, it requires up to 10 times as much land to produce dairy milk as it does to produce a similar amount of oat milk and so a transition to oat milk is the healthy choice for the planet. Alongside this, oats can be grown in cooler climates and so local production, like ours in Saskatchewan, can occur without adding to deforestation in developing countries.
The problem with dairy in terms of its water usage is that in order to keep cattle, you also need water in order to grow crops to feed them. Let's cut out the middleman and just use the crops! But here, the case for oat milk is particularly strong. All of the plant-based milks are much better in terms of water usage than dairy milk. Almond milk, the thirstiest of all the plant based milks, requires around 75 litres (~2500 oz) of water per glass of milk compared to dairy’s 120 litres (~4100 oz) for the same amount. That’s certainly a huge improvement but when compared to oat milk, almond milk still requires 7 times as much water.
On every sustainability metric, oat milk is much better than dairy and in many ways better than even the plant based alternatives too. This means that you can enjoy your coffee, guilt free, knowing that you’re making a choice to do the right thing. Surely making the sustainable choice has to have a downside though, there's no way it can taste as good, right? Wrong!
Oat milk is particularly well-suited to coffee, complementing, rather than dominating, the flavour. And it’s also perfect for smoothies, cereal, and your morning granola. On top of that, oats are safe for those with nut allergies, unlike many other dairy alternatives.
The Bottom Line
In terms of sustainability, a plant-based diet really is the obvious choice with even the lowest impact animal products being more harmful than their plant-based replacement. But we don’t think that means you should sacrifice on quality either, and that’s why we work with farmers to directly source the finest ingredients and use the most artisanal procedures to extract the best possible taste. If you’re interested in learning more about the sustainability of oat milk, check out our next post where we dive into more detail.At Two Bears, our mission is to energize your mission, your moments. In a world of influence, our hope is to reconnect you with you so that you can make meaningful connections with the world around you. We craft the freshest, frothiest energy for you to sip and turn into whatever you need that day – human connection, motivation, creativity, confidence, slowness... we encourage you to craft your moment with Two Bears, whatever that moment may be.