Almond Ambiguity: Nut Milks and Water/Drought

A vulnerable part of our complex environment often slips by us unnoticed: Water. We’re made of it, we can’t live without it, but it is the resource that is most in jeopardy now that climate change is upon us. I certainly haven’t been as aware as I should be, however, of widespread water issues. Lately, I’ve been learning about the drought in California and the rapidly depleted groundwater.

As subscribers to the whole foods, plant-based idea, we care about water. And I’ve gotta be real with you, if you’re someone who consumes a lot of nuts and nut milk in your diet (like me), no matter the source, we need to take a good hard look at how we – as #wfpb vegans – could be contributing to this problem. Here’s what I’ve been reading and listening to:

“Reveal” podcast: “Water Wars”  is a must-listen for all plant-based eaters. Not only do they take a balanced look at water issues in California, they tie it back to the animal and meat industry, and finish with a fascinating look at plant-based meat substitutes!

Maria Dolan at Slate weighs in, bringing up that based on the facts almond milk is definitely the lesser of two evils (compared to water consumption in animal agriculture), and by watering down almonds perhaps we’re even doing the a good thing by thinning out our nut consumption with… Well, more water. She is writing in response to a Mother Jones article that circulated quite a bit titled “Lay Off the Almond Milk, You Ignorant Hipsters.”

Grist.org’s “Ask Umbra” did a column a while back about which milk alternative is lightest on the land. While she didn’t come down in favor of any particular plant-based milk, she advocates skipping the cow milk option altogether for a multitude of really good reasons (that we all probably know already). Most importantly, however, she brings up the intensive processing of most milk alternatives. Her column got me thinking about what I could make at home without going out of my way to buy fancy nut milk equipment.

The jury’s out as to whether nut milks can really be called the “culprits” for the drought in California. But here’s my call to action…

Make oat milk! Use it to supplement your nut milk. And, if you’re feeling really inspired, switch to flax milk (slightly less intensive to farm, and you can get it with added pea protein). I use oat milk for cereal, smoothies, and when I want a glass of milk all by itself. I save my flax milk for baking and coffee creamifying, since oat milk doesn’t withstand heat very well.

Oat milk is mind-bogglingly easy to make at home. Check out my recipe, a mix of two other recipes that I have streamlined together. You don’t need a high-power blender, it doesn’t have to take any longer than 10 minutes, and it barely makes any dirty dishes. You can even make it chocolate!

In addition, oat milk doesn’t involve any packaging and cuts the transportation-related fossil fuels waaay back. Oats can be bought locally almost anywhere in the U.S. And if you invest in some mason jars (which are great for a million other things too) you won’t have to use those great big cartons that milk substitutes come in.

In the face of all of the water issues before us… Why not make a small, simple change? Odds are, if you’re reading this blog, you’re already making some big changes to your diet. If oat milk just doesn’t do it for you, I understand. But do me a favor – try my recipe once. Drink a tall cool glass of oat milk while you listen to Reveal’s “Water Wars” podcast, and see if that doesn’t change your mind.

See? It’s delicious!

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