Why Oat, Rice, Almond and Soy Milk Are All Unsustainable

Why plant based milks aren't very good and should not be bought from shops. Instead make your own dairy free milk at home

There’s a constant debate over the most ethical plant based milk to choose. Sadly these articles are mostly are a distraction that misses the point and don’t lead towards a positive change.

Rather than concentrating on one ingredient in isolation. It’s far more useful to look at the entire picture when choosing what vegan milk to have for breakfast.

dairy milk

Almond Milk Isn’t That Bad

Almond milk has become enemy number one.

This is due to some poorly researched articles that overestimate the number of almonds used to make almond milk by 2400%!

Anti almond milk articles also ignore the good that growing almond trees does for the environment and all the other useful by-products of almond milk, including the almond husk for agriculture (uses similar to wood chip) and as a fuel source.

Sadly demonising a popular vegan food works exceedingly well to get the clicks and shares. My articles pointing out the glaring flaws never go viral, but sadly a well thought out truth isn’t as attractive as a sensationalist and misleading headline.

almond milk ingredients

Oat Milk Isn’t The Anwer

I’ve heard it so many times that someone is only buying oat milk now as they’ve read an article that it’s the most sustainable and almond, soy and rice are all terrible.

While those articles have some truth buried in them, they only present a fraction of the picture.

People shunning all other vegan milk and concentrating on oat milk might not be as environmentally friendly as they think as the devil is always in the detail.

Oat milk may have a milky colour but it contains little else and its mostly void of nutrition.

Oats

Transporting Heavy Water

Water is very dense as the molecules are small and stick together. This makes water relatively heavy.

When you buy plant milk from a store it’s often between 95-98% water. All this heavy (mostly water) “plant milk” takes a significant amount of energy to transport from the factory where it’s made, to the store and then into someones home.

In our modern world this transportation is almost exclusively done by fossil fuel vehicles that cause untold damage during extraction and combustion, not to mention all the political issues.

micro plastics- n water bottles

Recycling Is A Complicated Issue

Almost all plant based milks are sold in plastic containers. Some are plastic bottles and others are cartons made from a mixture of plastic, cardboard and metal.

It’s nice to think that if something is recyclable you can just pop it in a recycling bin and it doesn’t affect the environment at all. Sadly just it’s not that simple.

Just because something can be recycled in theory it doesn’t make it environmentally friendly. For plastic there are limited uses for recycled plastic and it can be very difficult to recycle all the different types. China and the far east have stopped taking imports of waste plastic from the developed world and there’s currently a huge excess.

The truth is plastic can never really be recycled, it can be downcycled meaning its made into new products of a lesser quality.  The down cycling of plastic also releases significant emissions.

When plastic is recycled it can lead to microplastics being leached into the water supply. Some charities have stopped providing staff with recycled plastic fleeces as they contribute to plastic pollution when they’re washed and fibres are released into the water supply.

Plastic nets used in fresh fruit and vegetables

Plastic Leaches Into Fluids

Freshly made plastic containers are often filled with plant milk while they’re off-gassing. When you buy something plastic don’t you often find it gives out an unpleasant smell?

There’s increasing concern over the gasses released by plastic. Some think the chemicals interfere with hormones and are toxic. While the plastics used for food containers have to meet higher standards there are still concerns.

The liquid in a plastic container will undeniably have chemicals from the plastic leached into it, especially if it’s exposed to light or heat at any time. While this would be a minor concern if it’s something consumed occasionally if you have several litres of plant milk a week it is something to be taken seriously.

More about hidden plastic in foods.

9 foods that contain plastic

All Vegan Kinds of Milk Are Better Than Dairy

It’s undeniable that whatever plant based milk you buy from the shops it will be better for the environment than dairy.

Lots of viral articles gleefully point out that every vegan milk isn’t a perfect food. No food is perfect and in our globalised world you can find fault with just about every food if you want to.

This article isn’t to discourage people from having dairy free kinds of milk, more to say don’t fixate on the type of milk at the cost of ignoring the bigger picture. Thinking oat milk is great and all the plastic waste is recycled can lead to a false sense of how sustainable it is.

The big problem is with the transportation and waste.

Yes almonds may use a lot of water but hardly any almonds are in almond milk. the trees to grow almonds provide oxygen and every part of the almond tree is used elsewhere as by-products.

2 ingredient peanut milk

The Solution To Buying Plant Milks

As a site that is about recipes and making things yourself from whole ingredients, it will come as no surprise that I’m going to say make your own plant milk.

Before you start to shut me down that it takes too long and is too messy check out this vegan milk recipe.

It costs pennies and takes 30 seconds. You can use any nut or seed butter that you like.

I’m using peanut in the video just because it’s cheap and readily available. Always choose pure 100% peanut butter.

Yield: 1 Pint

Quick Vegan Milk

Quick Vegan Milk

Make your own dairy free milk in less than 30 seconds. Stop buying milk and live more sustainably with this recipe that's quicker than shopping and recycling plant milk containers.

Prep Time 1 minute
Total Time 1 minute

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp Nut or Seed Butter
  • 1 pint of Filtered Water
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla (optional)
  • A pinch of Sea Salt (optional)
  • 1 Date (optional)

Instructions

  1. Place everything into a small jug / bullet blender.
  2. Blend for 30 seconds then enjoy.
  3. Keep quick vegan milk in the fridge in an airtight container and consume within 3 days.

Recommended Products

Links maybe affiliated, meaning I earn a commission from purchases but at no extra cost to yourself.

Nutrition Information

Yield

1 pint

Serving Size

1

Amount Per ServingCalories 179 Total Fat 16g Saturated Fat 8g Trans Fat 0g Unsaturated Fat 7g Cholesterol 31mg Sodium 266mg Carbohydrates 7g Fiber 1g Sugar 5g Protein 2g
When you have more time you can try making your own plant milk, view my seed milk recipes. My favourite is the pumpkin carrot milk.

Seed Milk Recipes - 4 Ways

15 thoughts on “Why Oat, Rice, Almond and Soy Milk Are All Unsustainable”

    1. Hi Kae, Thanks for pointing out my typo – I’m dyslexic and struggle with spelling. Reading the article many times before going live I can still miss things as they blur into one, I’ll correct it now

    2. Wow, Kate. Did you have to be so snippy about it? Mistakes happen, even in journalism. The author is human. You could’ve just recommended the correction and moved on with your day, rather than add all that extra nonsense to give yourself a moment of perceived superiority.

  1. You mention soy in the title but it’s missing in the article. Because it’s the best. Sustainable and superior to other plant and animal milks.

  2. my problem, how do I get extra calcium in my homemade vegan milk? I have osteoporosis and drink the chocolate almond milk to supplement my calcium intake, plant-based calcium supplements are very expensive?

  3. I make my own oat milk — also very easy, like your nut butter milk recipe. One part oats, six parts water. Soak one hour, blend two minutes. Do NOT strain out the sediment (that’s where the nutrients are). Refrigerate in a tightly sealed jar, so you can shake before each use.

  4. Hello I’d love to start making my own plant based milk for various reasons. as a family of 4 we consume a lot, it is expensive and lots of carton waste. I like the fact that the shop bought milk has added vitamins and minerals though, particularly for my young children. Do you know, or recommend a supplement I could add to this recipe to make the milk nutritional value similar to that I buy in the shops? We usually have almond breeze.

    1. Bastian Durward

      Hi there, glad you like this idea. Afraid I really wouldn’t like to give any supplement advice over the internet. You can get multivitamin powders without all the bulking agents. Maybe that would work? After all, that’s pretty much what the plant milk makers do to fortify theirs with vitamins

  5. Karelle Rheault

    A great and cheap way to add calcium to your alimentation is by eating egg shells! If you are vegan you can ask a non vegan friend for their shells!

    1. That’s not how veganism works.. vegans avoid animal products and animal suffering.. getting egg shells from someone who contributes to animal suffering is wrong on many levels.

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