We need to talk about milk … (and an ode to oats!)

First thing in the morning, mid-morning, just after lunch and mid-afternoon. I’m a tea drinker and there’s only one way I like it. With milk in it.

Which is why when I cringe when I keep reading this line from a 2018 Oxford university study:

Producing a glass of cow’s milk has at least three times more environmental impact than producing a glass of any non-dairy milk.

This is apparently due to three things – greenhouse gas emissions (methane from cows), land-use (cows need space to roam and their food needs space to grow) and water use (to make the milk).

Crikey. So if I want to go green, I need to address my taste for dairy.

I have to admit, the idea of not having milk in my tea – or ice cream, or cheese, or butter – makes me shudder. But it is something I’ve realised I need to tackle if I’m serious about being green. And dare I say it, meat (but that’s a story for another day…)

Hang on a minute, before you click away! The last thing I want this blog to be about is how green always means giving nice, convenient, tasty things up. No, I want to be more inclusive – I think being green is more about doing things differently, less of the bad stuff and more of the good stuff more of the time. I get it. The more you talk about giving things up in order to be green, the more you lose people along the way. Plus, it makes going green a really boring, “worthy” , thing to do. So, no, we’re not talking about me giving up milk we’re talking about reducing consumption of it.

Phew, because there is an important place in my life for milky tea (and cheese and butter) and I am not at the point (yet!) where I can go vegan.

So, back to my attempt to reduce my milk intake – and stumbled upon a minefield where I wasn’t looking for one. As this article on the BBC shows, while traditional dairy milk ain’t so green, the alternatives to dairy milk might just be even worse.

But what are the alternatives?

The terrifying array of milk alternatives

Many of them – almond, rice, cashew, coconut milk are all from crops that are grown in hot places, have a tonne of food miles, as well as use a lot of water and fertiliser in production.

But oat milk seems to be one of the least bad options – it’s grown closer to home and boasts top points in the sustainability scale.

We got into oat milk a while ago and started to buy lots of it as a replacement for cow milk – it worked well in porridge, pancakes, mashed potato (sadly not in tea) and we were actually buying less cow milk.

I then noticed that these oat milk tetrapaks were filling my recycling making me feel bad about the waste (I’ve learned that green issues never stay in their own silos. Just when you think you’re solving a carbon problem you end up with a waste problem!)

But one of the best things about oat milk is that it is super easy to make at home – no packaging. You just add water, whizz in a blender and strain. I add a touch of vanilla essence and a bit of honey to make it taste more palatable, and hey presto! A more environmentally friendly alternative to cow milk.

My home-made oat milk

As for my tea, I still take it with milk. And I can’t resist ice cream as an occasional treat. Cutting dairy out entirely is a step I might have to take later on. One step at a time…

How about you? Have you any thoughts about the alternatives to milk? Can you tell me how to give up milk when I still have to start the day with milky tea?

2 thoughts on “We need to talk about milk … (and an ode to oats!)

  1. This is turning into a myth busting blog, exposing the complete fallacies of (conveniently simple sounding) “green” ways of living. Long live beef!

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    1. With respect, I disagree – it’s not exposing complete fallacies, but merely documenting some of the challenges of making informed decisions. I think all too often we expect things (and decision-making) to be easy, but the reality is that life is complex and so are global systems – so we just need to think a little harder about the everyday decisions we make and what impact they have on those around us and the planet we live in.

      ‘Green ways of living’ is a natural response to the scientific reality of climate change and the societal need to change what we are doing.

      Here’s my ‘beef’: To define green issues as a ‘fallacy’ conveniently enables a complete rejection of the idea altogether, and a continuation of unsustainable living, which is not terribly helpful!

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