Oat Milk Environmental Impact

The new wave of plant milks

The environmental impact of dairy farming is becoming increasingly well-known. As a result, more and more people are switching to plant-based milk alternatives as a way of reducing their own personal carbon footprint. Oat based milk remains the UKs favourite plant-based variety, but just how sustainable is it as a dairy alternative? 

Most sustainable plant milk comparison represented by oat grains and milk glass

Environmental impact of dairy milk

The dairy industry produces in the region of 50 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, accounting for almost double the entire global aviation industry.

Greenhouse gases aside, dairy is also extremely water and land intensive, requiring 628 litres of water and 9 square meters of land for every litre of milk produced. Yes - that’s 628 litres of water per 1 litre of milk, and the cows aren’t even taking baths! Let’s see how oat milk stacks up.

Environmental impact of oat milk

Oat milk has a very low environmental impact in comparison to dairy milk.

  • Carbon dioxide per litre: oat milk 0.9kg vs. dairy milk 3.2kg (72% decrease).
  • Water usage per litre: oat milk 48 litres vs. dairy milk 628 litres (92% decrease).
  • Land usage per litre: oat milk 0.8sqm vs dairy milk 9sqm (91% decrease).

In addition, farming of oat crops doesn’t cause significant damage to soil or natural ecosystems, especially when compared to other milk alternatives such as soy which has been linked to deforestation and soil pollution. 

Environmental impact of other plant-based milks

oat milk environmental impact vs. milk alternatives chart

Source: Poore & Nemececk (2018)

As shown in the above chart, there isn’t one plant milk which leads in every category, so it’s difficult to determine which can be deemed the most sustainable. Whilst almond and rice milk contribute slightly fewer greenhouse gases, they rely on extremely heavy water usage. Similarly, while soy appears to perform well on carbon and water indicators, it can cause serious environmental damage due to deforestation and widescale use of pesticides.

How can the environmental impact of oat milk be reduced?

Oat milk is made from 90% water, which makes it unnecessarily bulky and heavy. It’s kind of like buying pre-diluted blackcurrant squash. Transporting around all that heavy water-filled oat milk requires trucks, which run on… you guessed it - fossil fuels.

This is where we come in. We remove the water from oat milk by dehydration, which makes it 10 times lighter, and means less packaging and CO2 transport emissions. But that’s not all, like other dried products it also boasts a much longer shelf life, which equals less food waste. Check out our full article on why powdered oat milk is a more sustainable choice.

It doesn’t just end here though; we want other producers to re-evaluate how products reach consumers so that unnecessary wastage can be reduced. Learn more about our sustainability here.

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