Plant-based milk has become increasingly popular as more people are ditching dairy for various reasons. However, with so many options available, it can be challenging to determine which type of milk is the most sustainable. A 2018 study by the University of Oxford found that plant-based milk is much more sustainable than dairy milk, emitting three times fewer greenhouse gases and taking up to nine times less land.

This article will explore the sustainability of various plant-based milk options, including almond milk, cashew milk, coconut milk, hazelnut milk, hemp milk, pea milk, rice milk, soy milk, and soya milk. Each type of milk has unique characteristics and environmental impacts that will be discussed to help readers make informed decisions about their milk choices. Join us as we spill the beans on which plant-based milk is the most sustainable for your low impact latte.

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What Is The Most Sustainable Milk?

When it comes to determining the most sustainable milk, various factors need to be considered. It is essential to evaluate the entire supply chain, including cultivation, processing, packaging, transportation, and social impact. In this section, we will delve into the different aspects that make a milk sustainable.

Environmental Impact

The environmental impact of milk production is significant. The production of cow’s milk, in particular, has been linked to greenhouse gas emissions, water usage, and land use. On the other hand, plant-based milk alternatives have a lower environmental footprint, emitting fewer greenhouse gases and using less water and land. However, it is important to consider the environmental impact of cultivation, including the use of pesticides, deforestation, loss of biodiversity, and soil erosion. A University of Oxford study by Joseph Poore found that the production of almond milk had the highest environmental impact due to its high water usage and the potential of biodiversity loss in areas such as the California almond orchards.

Social Impact

The social impact of milk production is also an important factor in determining sustainability. It is essential to consider the working conditions and pay of those involved in the cultivation and processing of the milk. This includes both cow’s milk and plant-based milk alternatives.

Food Miles/Shipping

The distance that milk travels from its origin to the store where it is sold is also a factor to consider. The transportation of milk can contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental consequences. Plant-based milk alternatives tend to have a lower carbon footprint due to their lower transportation requirements.

Processing and Packaging

The processing and packaging of milk also have an impact on its sustainability. The raw ingredients used in the production of milk should be sustainable, and the processing should not involve the use of harmful chemicals. Packaging should also be sustainable, with recycling rates being a crucial factor to consider.


While the sustainability of milk is important, it is also essential to consider its nutritional value and potential health risks. Plant-based milk alternatives tend to have a lower fat content and fewer calories than cow’s milk, making them a healthier option.

In conclusion, the most sustainable milk is one that has a low environmental impact, is socially responsible, has minimal food miles, and has sustainable processing and packaging. Plant-based milk alternatives tend to be more sustainable than cow’s milk, but the specific type of plant-based milk can also affect its sustainability.

How To Choose The Most Sustainable Milk

When looking for a sustainable milk alternative, there are several factors to consider. Here are some tips on how to choose the most eco-friendly option.

Make Your Own

One of the most sustainable options is to make your own milk at home. This reduces CO2 emissions caused by transporting cartons that are mainly water. You can buy dried ingredients such as oats, nuts, and seeds at your local or online bulk store and turn them into milk at home. There are plenty of recipes available online for making your own plant-based milk.

Consider the Food Miles

Buying domestically or locally is a great way to reduce the carbon footprint of your milk. Oats and hemp can grow in temperate climates, and soy can be grown in Europe as well as in the US and Canada. Choosing European-grown soy can help reduce the carbon footprint if you live in this part of the world.

Choose Organic Certified Products

Choosing organic certified products can help reduce the environmental impact of your milk. Organic farming practices avoid the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, which can harm the environment and human health.

Choose Fairtrade

When buying cashew or coconut milk, it’s important to choose Fairtrade to support ethical labor practices. Many of these crops are grown in developing countries where labor conditions can be poor. Choosing Fairtrade ensures that farmers receive fair wages and work in safe conditions.

Support Sustainable Food Brands

Buying plant milk from a vegan company can help support a shift away from dairy. Many vegan companies prioritize sustainability and use eco-conscious choices in their supply chain. Supporting these companies can help reduce the environmental impact of your milk.

Choose Sustainable Food Packaging

Choosing sustainable food packaging can help reduce waste and environmental impact. Some wholefood stores offer plant-milk refills, and some companies offer milk delivery in glass bottles. Choosing refillable and recyclable containers can help reduce waste and support sustainable practices.

Mix It Up

Having a diverse food system is a sustainable food system. Over-reliance on one type of plant-based milk can have consequences, such as the problems associated with large-scale monoculture systems. Mixing up your milk choices can help support a more sustainable food system.

Final Thoughts On Which Plant Milk Is The Most Sustainable

The bottom line is that ditching dairy and going plant-based for milk is the single best move you can make. Each alternative is on the spectrum of sustainability, but it’s challenging to pinpoint exactly where that might be relative to each other. Hemp, oats, peas, and potatoes are generally ahead of the rest, but all options are better than dairy.

Many plant-based milk crops are grown in large-scale monocultures using industrial agricultural methods that cost the environment, our health, and food security. A move towards more sustainable food systems would make the future of plant milks even greener.

In conclusion, choosing a sustainable milk alternative involves considering factors such as food miles, organic certification, fair trade, sustainable food packaging, and supporting sustainable food brands. Mixing up your milk choices can also help support a more sustainable food system.