Is plant milk better for the environment?

A graphic with bold stickers reading 'soy', 'oat', 'almond', 'coconut', and 'find your oooh without the moo'.

Is plant milk better for the environment?

Are you just flirting with plant milk, flexidairyan or DTF (down to froth)? Switching things up can be... surprisingly satisfying.

From creamy oat milk to silky soy, plant milks are surprisingly smooth in your morning brew. Oat, almond or soy generate at least 68% fewer planet warming emissions than dairy milk, and oooh does that feel good.

Ready to get it on with plant milk? Find your ‘oooh’ without the moo and check out the campaign here – the rest of this page is for the stat-curious, the scientists and the Advertising Standards Authority.

So, is plant milk really better for the environment?

Like we said, oat, almond and soy generate at least 68% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than dairy milk.

Oat milk is surprisingly creamy and generates 71% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than dairy milk.

Almond milk tastes great and generates 77% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than dairy milk.

Soy milk is oh-so silky and generates 68% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than dairy milk.

That’s a pretty big difference! The kind that makes you feel really good.

Oooh but you want more? How about the kgCO₂eq generated per litre for each type of milk?

  • 🥜 Oat milk: 0.9kgCO₂eq per litre
  • 🌰 Almond milk: 0.7kgCO₂eq per litre
  • 🫘 Soy milk: 0.98 kgCO₂eq per litre
  • 🐮 Dairy milk: 3.15kgCO₂eq per litre

This data all comes from a meta-analysis of food system impact studies from across the globe and across the supply chain.

Joseph Poore and Thomas Nemecek, the authors, looked at data from 570 studies covering 119 countries and took the entire production chain into account. That includes land use change, on-farm production, processing, transport, and packaging.

And they didn’t just measure greenhouse gases. They also looked at the impact of different milks on land and fresh water use, as well as eutrophication.

Woah there, what does that even mean?

We know, it’s a lot of jargon! So here’s a handy guide:

  • Meta-analysis: a meta-analysis is a study of studies. That means Poore and Nemecek reviewed the data and results from multiple other independent studies of the same subject, to see the overall trends and overcome any bias.
  • Production chain: the study looks at every step of making dairy or plant milk, from farm to shop. That includes farming, processing, packaging and transport to the final destination (your local shop).
  • Eutrophication: what happens when lakes, rivers and oceans get too many nutrients, typically due to agriculture, sewage and other pollutants. This causes too many algae to grow, which takes away oxygen from the water and badly impacts water quality and aquatic life.
  • CO₂eq: A carbon dioxide equivalent (CO₂e) is a unit of measurement that is used to standardise the climate effects of various greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide is the main man-made greenhouse gas but others exist with varying characteristics, such as methane or nitrous oxide. CO₂eq includes these other gases by converting them into the amount of carbon dioxide that would have the same global-warming potential.

Want to see for yourself?

Environmental footprints of dairy and plant-based milks. (n.d.). Our World in Data. Retrieved April 25, 2024.

What are CO₂ equivalents? (n.d.). myclimate. Retrieved April 30, 2024.

Poore, J., & Nemecek, T. (2018). Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science, 360(6392), 987-992.

Yang, X. E., Wu, X., Hao, H. L., & He, Z. L. (2008). Mechanisms and assessment of water eutrophication. Journal of Zhejiang University. Science. B, 9(3), 197–209.

Find your oooh without the moo

We’re getting hot, steamy, and... kind of oaty. We’re talking about plant milk, silly. Try oat, almond or soy in your next hot drink.

Curious to know more about Hubbub?

At Hubbub, we want to see a world where everyone makes choices that are good for the environment. Check out what we do and the difference we’re making.