Is Cashew Milk Bad for the Environment

Is Cashew Milk Bad for the Environment?

Last Updated on August 25, 2023 by Krystine

With plant-based milks rising in popularity, many shoppers ponder their ecological impacts.

Cashew milk offers a creamy, nutty alternative to cow’s milk.

Read on to learn whether cashews are friend or foe to the environment.

Is Cashew Milk Bad for the Environment?

Cashew milk
Image Credit: Hindustan Times

No, cashew milk has a lower environmental impact than dairy milk in terms of water use, carbon emissions, and land requirements.

However, it has a larger footprint than some other plant-based milks.

Sourcing organic and sustainably farmed cashews, minimizing additives, and making homemade cashew milk all help reduce its ecological impact.

Key Points

  • Cashew milk has a water footprint 22 times higher than dairy milk but lower than almond and rice milk.
  • Store-bought cashew milk generates 0.7 kg CO2e per liter compared to dairy’s 1.8 kg CO2e.
  • Opting for Fair Trade cashews and minimal packaging optimizes sustainability.

How is cashew milk made?

A glass of cashew milk
Image Credit: The Coconut Mama

Cashew milk is made by soaking raw cashew nuts and then blending them with water.

The soluble fiber creates a smooth, creamy emulsion.

Some versions contain added sugars, salt, and binding additives.

Compared to almond and soy milk, cashew milk has a lower nut-to-water ratio.

It is naturally sweet, requiring little added sugar.

The minimal processing steps make homemade cashew milk easy.

Large manufacturers use high-speed extraction to maximize yield.

But basic ingredients make cashew milk a relatively simple plant milk.

Is cashew milk worse than dairy milk?

Cashew milk generally has a far lower environmental impact than dairy milk.

Dairy requires much more land, water, and energy to graze cattle and produce milk.

Raising livestock for traditional milk comes with environmental impacts.

The manure from concentrated operations pollutes waterways.

Plant-based cashew milk also generates fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

However, sustainable small-scale dairy farming has lower impacts.

Opting for organic cashew milk without additives minimizes its footprint.

Overall, cashew milk is ecologically superior to conventionally produced cow’s dairy milk.

How sustainable are cashews compared to other nuts?

Cashews are moderately sustainable compared to other nuts and seeds used for milk.

Almonds have a high water footprint, requiring irrigation in drought-prone California.

Brazil nut harvesting threatens rainforest ecosystems.

Cashews fare better environmentally than soy, coconut, and hazelnuts.

However, cashews are grown as monoculture cash crops, limiting biodiversity.

Their processing also emits greenhouse gases.

More sustainable nut milks include hemp, oats, and walnuts.

But overall, cashews have a middling sustainability profile.

What is the water footprint of cashew milk?

Producing one liter of cashew milk takes around 371 liters of water.

The majority is green water used for growing the nuts, not irrigation.

Almond and rice milk use over twice the water.

Coconut milk has a footprint of just 22 liters.

However, cashew milk still has a water footprint 22 times higher than cow’s milk.

Sourcing cashews from regions with renewable water and limiting milk additives reduces the water impact.

But plant milk footprints ultimately hinge on ingredient footprints.

Does cashew milk have a large carbon footprint?

The carbon footprint of store-bought cashew milk averages around 0.7 kilograms CO2 equivalent per liter.

This compares favorably to cow’s milk, which averages 1.8 kg CO2e per liter.

Processing and transport emissions comprise most of cashew milk’s footprint.

However, homemade cashew milk can have 10 times lower emissions.

Opting for unsweetened, additive-free varieties also helps.

Overall, cashew milk has low emissions compared to dairy, but other plant milks like hemp fare even better environmentally.

Are cashews ethical and sustainable?

Some cashew production presents sustainability concerns.

Raw cashew processing employs caustic acids and emits greenhouse gases.

Monoculture cash cropping, like with the canola plant industry, limits biodiversity and chemical inputs degrade soil.

However, cashew orchards prevent soil erosion.

Fairtrade-certified cashews guarantee worker rights.

Sourcing organic and sustainably harvested cashews mitigates impact.

While not the greenest nut, cashews offer flexibility for diverse uses.

People with dietary needs benefit from access to this nutrient-rich milk alternative.

Should I quit cashew milk for the planet?

Eliminating cashew milk may not better serve the planet if it means reverting to dairy milk, which has a clearly higher environmental impact.

However reducing consumption, opting for sustainably grown cashews, and making homemade cashew milk using minimal additives and packaging all help minimize footprint.

For those who rely on cashew milk as a dairy substitute, conscientious purchasing enables sustainable enjoyment.

What is the healthiest plant-based milk?

The healthiest plant milk depends on nutritional needs and environmental priorities.

In terms of sustainability, homemade hemp and oat milk using local whole grains are excellent choices.

However, the reinforcement of vitamins and omega-3s makes fortified soy a balanced choice.
Pea milk rivals dairy milk’s protein levels.

Individual allergies may dictate avoiding certain plant proteins entirely.

Overall blends like cashew-almond milk provide nutritional diversity.

Considering nutritional value and sustainability together helps determine the optimal plant milk.

Should I make my own cashew milk?

Homemade cashew milk using local raw nuts and minimal packaging has the lowest environmental impact and highest nutritional quality.

Soaking and blending cashews is simple with a high-speed blender.

However, homemade nut milk has a very limited shelf life.

Many lack the time and resources for weekly production.

But when possible, making small batches of homemade cashew milk maximizes sustainability.

Some transitional compromise involves buying packaged cashew milk and reusing containers.

Is cashew or almond milk better for the environment?

Comparing cashew and almond milk, almond milk has a higher water footprint needing irrigation in drought-prone California.

But cashew farming involves heavy pesticide use.

Processing cashews emits more greenhouse gases than almonds.

However, almonds rely on bee pollination whereas cashews do not.

Ultimately, oat and hemp milk are more sustainable than both cashews and almonds.

But between the two, cashew milk is marginally better for the environment given almond milk’s large water use.

Choosing unsweetened, organic varieties of either minimizes impact.

Key Takeaway:

  • Compared to dairy milk, cashew milk is the more ecologically mindful choice.
  • But it has higher water use and emissions than some plant milks.
  • Sourcing sustainably grown cashews and minimizing additives and packaging reduces its footprint.
  • For many, cashew milk offers an accessible and nutritious plant-based alternative balancing health and sustainability.


Does cashew milk require bees for pollination?

No, cashew plants are wind-pollinated so do not require bee colonies. This makes cashews more ecologically sustainable than almond milk which relies on bee pollination.

Can you make cashew milk without soaking it?

Skipping soaking is not recommended. Soaking softens the cashews for smooth blending and improves digestibility by neutralizing enzymes.

Is homemade cashew milk safe from bacteria?

Homemade cashew milk only lasts 2-3 days refrigerated before spoiling due to bacteria growth. Heating the milk extends its shelf life. Proper food handling is important.

The writers at GreenChiCafe are passionate about the environment and our natural world.

Please check out our website for more great content on living sustainably.

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