A few years ago, my inbox was flooded with articles that had headlines like this: “Your Almond Milk Obsession Is Destroying the Environment.” As I am a seed and nut lover, my friends and family turned to me for reassurance. “Should we be eating nuts and seeds?
We know they’re good for us, but are they bad for the environment?” Almonds are now the most popular nut consumed in the United States, and California is the only state in the country that produces them commercially. In fact, if you eat an almond anywhere in the world, there’s a good chance it came from California, since the state produces almost 85 percent of the global supply.
Unfortunately, California is prone to severe droughts, and high demand for almonds is using up a lot of the water available to farmers. The king salmon population in Northern California is threatened, because already low river water is being diverted for use in almond farming.
But the truth is that almonds aren’t the only food or crop that uses a lot of water. Everything grown—including meat, dairy, vegetables, fruit—requires extensive irrigation. We aren’t going to stop eating, so what can we do? We can stop wasting. When we buy food and don’t eat it, we squander water, fertilizer, pesticides, and animal lives, too.
Another thing we can do is realize that almond milk isn’t really as nutritious as we’ve been led to think; it’s usually loaded with other ingredients and not so many actual almonds. (See the chapter on beverages for details.) You can use other kinds of milk, such as hemp, cashew, or macadamia. The key to making the best nut and seed purchases is to buy organic.
Nuts and seeds are fatty and oily, so they absorb pesticides easily. A lot of the chemicals used on nuts and seeds are potentially carcinogenic and have been shown to cause harm to human beings and surrounding wildlife. Your local health food store should have great options for organic nuts and seeds, but here are some other options as well.