Why Take This Challenge?
Almonds are a great source of nutrients, including antioxidants, fiber, protein, and magnesium. For anyone that wants to decrease negative environmental impact, almond milk is an alternative to dairy intake. A study of a dairy farm in Ohio stated that nearly 30 gallons of water was used per cow per day (This is only inclusive of drinking water and cleaning water and is on the low end due to efficient water systems on this particular farm). It takes 4.5 gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk and dairy cows, on average, produces about 8 gallons of milk daily.
So almonds must need less water, right? If you are comparing to dairy intake, then yes. Almonds have risen in popularity since people have learned of the health and environmental effects of the meat and dairy industries. Almond milk is a helpful alternative for anyone that is vegan or has milk allergy or intolerance.
BUT. It takes over 15 gallons of water to produce just 16 almonds. Over 80% of almonds are grown in California now, and we know that California has consistent droughts. With the demand higher for almonds, the demand for water also increases, but in a place that doesn’t have enough of it.
THE CHALLENGE: Consider decreasing your almond intake. Nuts in general have a larger water foodprint than other foods, but almonds rank higher than others and are mostly grown in a droughted area. Did you know that soy milk uses less than a tenth of water to produce than almonds? Oats use the least amount of water of all the plant-based milks and have a higher nutritional value than almonds, but it is best when organically produced.
How Does This Challenge Benefit Me?
By already enjoying the benefits of almonds and almond products, there’s a chance you don’t want to hear about why you should reduce your intake. Maybe you’re already doing a lot by eliminating dairy (which you are!), but consider doing your own research on the environmental impacts of almonds. One may argue that since almonds are so good for you, then almond milk is a nutritional alternative to dairy milk. Except not that much. In store-bought brands of almond milk, the process needed to make almond milk eliminates most of the nutrients. Additionally, the pesticides used to grow almonds have been linked to the toxification of the drinking water in the surrounding communities, as well as being toxic to honey bees.
So, like most of our foods, it’s important to be mindful of what it takes to create or grow that food. Almonds are delicious and nutritious, but consuming them comes at a large water cost.
What If I Already Did This?
Excellent! You’ve reduced your almond intake. What did you supplement almonds with? Do you have another nut you prefer? What dairy-like beverage to you drink now?
Maybe you’re not ready to give up almond milk, but have you considered not buying it?
One very simple alternative to keeping almond milk in your life is to make your own! Of course, you’ll still have to buy almonds, but the quality of the milk will be purer than what you can buy in the store and will eliminate the risks to the drinking water in California and honeybees. Even better, you’ll have almond pulp leftover to use, so there’s no waste!
Prep This Weekend for a More Sustainable Week
- Make some of your own dairy-free milk!
- Do some research on the least-harmful alternatives to dairy and determine what you’re comfortable with
- Look at the ingredients on your store-bought plant-based products. While less water is need to grow plants than produce meat or dairy, sometimes there are a lot of fillers included, which ultimately brings down the nutritional value.
- Check out the brands you’re buying – do the farmers supplying them use harmful pesticides, both to communities and the environment?
- Be kind to yourself. Changing habits and preferences takes practice and patience!