Milk Infographic – Carbon Footprint

 

Our infographic has reached over 75,000 people on Facebook! We’re excited that we’ve spurred so many people to consider the impacts of their food choices.  It’s also stirred up debate about some of the facts, so we want to explain the big issues in more detail, and provide our sources:

Carbon Footprint of Almond Milk

Many people have asked for the carbon footprint of almond milk.  Unfortunately, the reason we didn’t list it is that we couldn’t find the carbon footprint of either almonds or almond milk anywhere.   Please let us know if you come across it!

One factor that increases the carbon footprint of almonds is the fact that California produces so many almonds (1.9 billion pounds – most of the world’s supply!), that bees have
to be imported to pollinate all of the blossoms.  This increases the carbon footprint about 10%.  The carbon footprint also depends on how close you live to California.

Carbon Footprint of Cow Milk

Greenhouse Gases: According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, animal agriculture accounts for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions, more than all transportation (trains + planes + automobiles) combined.  Cows are particularly damaging; a single cow produces between 100-600 liters of methane per day, and methane is 25x more potent in warming the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.  Check out this great article on cows and methane.

Soy & Corn: 98% of
the soy crop grown in the U.S. is fed to livestock, as is 44% of the corn crop.  When you consider the carbon footprint of milk, you must also consider the carbon footprint of the feed crops.  Here’s a breakdown of the different emissions involved in corn production – tilling, fertilization, pesticide application, irrigation, processing.  Then the crops have to be shipped hundreds of miles away to where the animals are being raised.

Carbon Footprint of Milk: Our source for this was a study conducted by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy: http://www.usdairy.com/Sustainability/Science/Pages/Science-Layout-2.aspx

Negative Impacts of Almond Milk

Many people have pointed out that almonds are a monoculture in California, and that non-organic almond farming entails the use of harmful pesticides.  We want to
encourage people to reduce the impacts of their food choices as much as possible, which includes buying organic, local and seasonal produce, as well as products made using fair labor practices.

However, for people who only shop at large grocery chains like Safeway, there are few perfect products.  In that case, we’re urging people to practice harm reduction by buying the product that has the least impact.  Given the mass quantities of GMO soy and corn that are grown to feed to cows, plus all of the pain and suffering that mother cows and calves endure, and the pollution and emissions from cow milk, almond milk (especially organic) is still a less harmful product.

Conclusion

The bottom line is that there are products that are less environmentally destructive than cow milk, that don’t cause millions of animals to suffer, and have similar nutritional value.  Making homemade organic almond milk, or trying oat, hemp, rice, or
organic soymilk are also great alternatives.

Coming soon: more detailed info about animal treatment, and bovine growth hormone.

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