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Being “Trendy” Isn’t Helping the Earth: The Truth about Almond Milk

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SLU chapter.

I am basic. Like, really basic, but I embrace it. I love curling up on the couch and watching “The Kardashians” every week, I’m a sucker for Lululemon and Aerie sales and I could never go wrong with an oat milk latte every morning.

It’s human nature to want to go with the crowd and have bigger and better things. However, with the rise of capitalism and materialism, we don’t always truly understand and see the effects of “Internet trends.” There are a plethora of instances I could focus on. However I want to center on a topic that people might not consider: almond milk.

Almond milk production within the United States is expected to grow, showing an increase of 4.6% in production and sales in 2021 alone, along with a prediction that the almond milk market is to grow at a compound annual rate of 15.2% until 2030. Starbucks customers can currently opt for soymilk, coconut milk, almond milk and most recently, oat milk. According to a 2021 third quarter report from Starbucks, 25% of milk-based beverage sales came from alternative milks, and the majority came from almond milk beverage sales.

The increase of almond milk consumption can be attributed to the Internet and social media’s tendency to spread trends like wildfire, which has broadcasted the benefits of switching to dairy alternatives. Dairy alternatives are rich in vitamins and minerals, they don’t contain cholesterol and the combination of mono and polyunsaturated fats is extremely healthy for consumers. Unfortunately, with trends being spread across the internet and social media, there are major downsides.

Almond milk production requires a lot of water and pesticide use, which raises serious issues in California, where about 80% of almonds are grown worldwide. It takes about 15 gallons of water to produce 16 almonds. This extremely high water requirement to produce almond milk leads to higher rates of eutrophication, which is excessive nutrients found in a body of water.

Put simply, the nutritional benefits and the “look” of almond milk does not justify using the amount of water required to produce almond milk.

However, I am not telling you to give up drinking almond milk. No matter the reason, most drinkers have justifications for why they choose dairy alternatives, whether due to dietary or preference reasons. 

To ease your personal environmental impact, one option you have is to switch to a different non-dairy milk. Oat milk has the lowest carbon footprint out of all milk varieties, both dairy and non-dairy. Oat milk has the same type of benefits as almond milk and is also higher in fiber and carbs.

I am basic, and I run with the trends that pop up on my social media feeds. Previously, I succumbed to the trends and bought cartons and drinks with almond milk. However, as I grew my journey and became more environmentally aware, I reflected on my lifestyles and research to learn how I could be more eco-friendly. To truly make an impact on our earth and environment, we will have to reconsider the reliability and morality behind our trends.

Amelia is a sophomore at St. Louis University studying physical therapy and a member of SLU's women's swim team. She is often found in the pool or in front of her computer with a coffee in hand. She uses writing as an outlet to express her thoughts and interests.