Nut Milk... Way Worse Than It Sounds
*Transcript from my podcast, When You Know Better, You Do Better*
Mmmm, almond milk!
That delicious unassuming non-dairy drink starts out it’s life as an almond. And who doesn’t LOVE almonds?
Well I guess people with a tree nut allergy?
But other than that, who doesn’t LOVE almonds?
They’re super high in protein, loaded with fiber, oodles good fat, antioxidants, and Vitamin E - all of which has been linked to lower rates of cancer, heart disease, and Alzheimers.
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They’re pretty much a magical nut.
Almonds come from, you guessed it, almond trees! California produces almost 100% of commercial almonds consumed in the United States.
Yes, you read that right. California, the 31st state to join the union, that leggy sunshine goddess in the west, produces almost 100% of ALL THE commercial almonds consumed in the US and 81% world wide.
Being the number 1 producer has it’s benefits- the almond industry rakes in 11 billion dollars annually, producing about 1 million tones of almonds!
How many trees does it take to produce all that!?
Welp, the central valley where many are grown is about the size of Delaware. And with the demand for almonds, almond milk, and other products rapidly growing, more and more farmers are choosing to plant this super food.
Here’s the tricky thing though.
Almonds are not originally from this country - they’re from the middle east, and growing not native plants often comes with a cost.
California has the perfect climate for it, but it also happens to be SUPER water scarce place and almonds trees need lots of water, all year round.
How much water?
According to the Food Revolution network, A single almond takes about 1.1 gallons of water to produce. Or close to 10 gallons for a handful of nuts.
California dedicates about 8% of its total agricultural water supply to growing almonds. Which is actually less than what goes to alfalfa which gets shipped to others countries for cattle feed (I’ll save that for another episode, but for now, just try to buy local meat)
Back to almonds!
The farmers are doing a great job keeping these trees alive with oodles of water. They also kept them pest free by dumping 35 million pounds of chemicals on them.
Mature almond trees have beautiful flowers!
But those pink puffs are not going to pollinate themselves, you know.
That job is up to bees.
The only problem is, the native bee population can’t survive where the almond trees are grown because bees need food through out spring, summer, and autumn and almond trees only flower once in early spring.
Native bees can’t travel far to forage food, so if they’re in the middle a monoculture the size of Delaware, these poor creatures would starve to death before winter hits.
Almond tree monoculture 👉🏻What about the non-native honey bees?
Even though they can forage much farther, they STILL couldn’t survive in the middle of this monoculture, if someone stuck a hive in there!
The solution? Load honey bee hives onto gigantic fossil fuel guzzling trucks and plop them in the almond groves during the spring so they can pollinate the almonds, then just move them to the next industrial farmed fruit once the flowers are spent.
If it seems totally crazy that companies spend major bank and insane amounts of fossil fuels in the process to send these little pollinators to and from California each year, that’s nothing compared to the ramifications.
Once there, these bees are getting sick and dying from the pesticides put on the trees, 'cause if you remember back to the Chemical Death episode, there is no safe “cide” of pesticides.
Add this to the fact that these bee hives come from a variety of bee keepers and are placed near each other in the orchard - the bee’s immune systems are already compromised because they’re loaded with toxic pesticides form the flowers they’re visiting and now they're swapping viruses and mites other hive occupants.
Many do this until they die. One bee keeper said he routinely looses 30% or more of his highs in the almond season. So if he installed 1500 hives in an orchard, 450 won’t come back. And there’s between 10 and 80K bees in a hive. Is that’s about 25 million individual bees - dead - from a singer bee keeper.
Anyway, back to almonds. Once harvested, they're shipped using fossil fuels to a facility, where it’s processed into almond milk and put into containers (hopefully a non-plastic one) then it’s shipped off to your store. Almond milk is mostly just water, so lots of gas is used to move mostly water across the country and around the world in nut-milk form.
But what are the alternatives? Now that we know better that Almond milk is SUPER awful for the environment, what’s a better option?
I REALLY wish I could just say "hey, do you really need non-milk milk in your cereal and coffee anyway? Just stop using all non-dairy alternatives!"
And if you’re willing to do that, I’d love for forever. But I know lots of people, who will say "umm, you bet your ass I need my coffee light and sweet!"
So what are some “do better’ solutions?
I saw lots of breakdowns for all the non-dairy alternatives and a lot of factors come into play. For example, the amount of water it takes to produce, land use, pesticide use, green house gas emissions, soil degradation, and chemical run off.
While some alternatives end up looking better in one area, they look totally crappy in another category- so unfortunately I can’t give you a clear cut answer and just say "switch to this."
However, according to a green matters.comarticle, almond, soy, and rice milk, along with industrial farmed cow milk are the worst so...
just say no. From all the reading I did, which some of it was contradictory and omitting some information, some alternatives that appear less bad include oat, hemp, coconut, pea protein milk because they require the least amount of water and produce the lowers emissions.
Regardless of which choice you make, please make it organic, so you’re also cutting down on the chemicals you’re adding to the world.
You could also get an extra gold star if you chose to make your non dairy milk or make friends with a neighbor who secretly makes their own non-dairy milk.
Or find a local food co-op that makes their own non-dairy alternatives from sustainable sourced companies.
🥰 Now that you know better, go do better!
When the constant pursuit to do more leads to overwhelm and anxiety, it’s easy to find yourself feeling disconnected, exhausted, and missing the juiciest parts of life. For over 17 years, Lynn has been guiding people to reconnect with nature and ceremony, allowing them to reclaim a sense of purpose and embrace peace.