Scroll down to get an in-depth look at the human and environmental impacts of the food industry.


Milk and Environmental Impacts

Which milk is best for the environment?

Dairy: Dairy milk has the largest environmental impact when compared to non dairy milks. According to a 2018 study, dairy milk produces three times more carbon emissions compared to plant based milk. Furthermore, dairy milk requires nine square meters of land per liter produced.

Almond: In general, the production of almond milk produces less CO2 emissions than dairy, but requires more water compared to its non-dairy counterparts. The average almond requires around 12 liters of water to produce.

Fun fact! California is the world’s largest almond producer.

Soy: The environmental impact of soy milk is low compared to dairy. One liter of soy milk requires around 297 liters of water to produce, and emits around 0.975kg of CO2. However, soy milk uses more land than its non-dairy counterparts. 

Oat: Similar to soy milk, the environmental impact of oat milk is low compared to dairy. Oat milk production uses around 80% less land than dairy milk, and less water as well. One liter of oat milk emits around 0.9k of CO2.

Works Cited

Bogueva, Diana, and Dora Marinova. “Which ‘Milk’ Is Best for the Environment? We Compared Dairy, Nut, Soy, Hemp and Grain Milks.” Phys.org, Phys.org, 14 Oct. 2020, phys.org/news/2020-10-environment-dairy-nut-soy-hemp.html. 

Chavez, Veronica. “What’s Better For You and the Planet – Almond Milk or Cow’s Milk? Here Are the Facts.” One Green Planet, One Green Planet, 16 May 2019, http://www.onegreenplanet.org/news/whats-better-for-you-almond-or-dairy-milk/. 

Clingham-David, Jaia. “Which Non-Dairy Milk Is Best for the Environment?” One Green Planet, One Green Planet, 27 Oct. 2020, http://www.onegreenplanet.org/environment/which-non-dairy-milk-is-best-for-the-environment/. 

Held, Lisa Elaine. “Which Plant-Based Milks Are Best for the Environment?” FoodPrint, 18 Feb. 2020, foodprint.org/blog/which-plant-based-milk-is-best-for-the-environment/. 

Oakes, Kelly. “Which Milk Alternative Should We Be Drinking?” BBC Future, BBC, 10 Feb. 2020, http://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200207-which-milk-alternative-should-we-be-drinking.


Chocolate Industry

You might be a chocoholic, but have you ever wondered how your chocolate gets made? Chocolate is made from cocoa beans, but there are many steps from bean to bar.

The overall growing process often requires intense manual labor. Once the cocoa seeds are removed from the pod, they follow a long supply chain in which the beans move through intermediate sellers (Mussman). This process can be difficult for the farmers who often make less than $1/day. Because this work is their sole source of income, the farmers are largely powerless to fight the inhumane work conditions. Also, children often work alongside adults. According to the International Cocoa Initiative, children in cocoa farming communities lack access to education, must participate in unsafe tasks, and suffer frequent injuries (Cocoa Farming: An Overview).

You might be thinking, well, what can I do? As a consumer, you can make an impact like this:

  1. Educate yourself.
  2. Start a conversation to spread awareness of the issue.
  3. Learn your labels. “Fair trade” and “rainforest certified” are best for ethically produced chocolate. Click here to see certifications of different brands.

If you have the means, these simple steps help support a more sustainable future. Ultimately, more significant changes are necessary to deal with the systemic issues of cocoa production.

Additional Resources

Watch: Netflix Series Rotten Season 2 Episode 5, “Bitter Chocolate”

“The real story of chocolate is a supply chain where our affordable luxury is paid for in misery and exploitation.”

Rotten 2.05, Netflix

Read: 1) Cocoa Initiative 2) Slave Free Chocolate 3) The Big Business Of Chocolate 4) Fair Trade v. Rainforest Alliance

Works Cited

“Cocoa Farming: An Overview.” International Cocoa Initiative, cocoainitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/ECA_-_2011_-_Cocoa_Farming_an_overview.pdf. 

“FAQ: What Is the Difference Between Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade Certification?” Rainforest Alliance, Rainforest Alliance, 4 Sept. 2020, http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/faqs/difference-between-rainforest-alliance-certified-fair-trade. 

Mussman, Jonathan. “Bitter Chocolate.” Rotten, Netflix, 4 Oct. 2019.