Today, more than ever, people are becoming vegan, vegetarian, pescetarian, paleo, or simply selectively removing certain foods or food groups from their diets. Here in NYC, you can't walk two blocks without being smacked in the face by ten signs advertising some restaurant's diet-friendly, meatless option, and the amount of dairy and meat alternatives in supermarkets lately is mind-blowing. Most, or at least many, of the modern diet trends that have emerged exclude dairy products, and many people, myself included, have chose to give up dairy for their large environmental footprint, or other health reasons. 

chocolate, tea, milk, coffee, sweet
Kaitlyn Eisenshtadt

For those such as myself who gave up dairy, but also don't believe life is worth living without cereal, cheese, or ice cream, modern science has come to the rescue with a wide array of alternatives including soy, cashew, and rice milks, but unquestionably almond-based products dominate the market for dairy replacements. This shift away from cows, and towards almonds, however, has its own price that should make us all pause before we feel too virtuous reaching for that absurdly priced $5 container of almond milk from the local Whole Foods.

Vicky Nguyen

This hidden price comes in the shocking amount of water it takes to produce almonds. According to one source, a single almond will require about 1.1 gallons of water to grow, and one half-gallon carton of almond milk contains anywhere from 30 to a whopping 225 almonds. Don't worry, I did the math for you, and in the most depressing word problem ever, found that this means between 33 and 248 gallons of water go into producing just a half-gallon of almond milk.  

nut, pecan, meat, sweet, chocolate
Susanna Mostaghim

I'll let that sink in for a second, before I remind you that 99% of almonds grown in the United States are grown in California, currently one of the most drought-afflicted regions of the country. If growing one of the most water-intensive crops in one of the most water-deprived areas seems like a bad idea to you, you're absolutely right, since our nation's current rate of almond consumption will most likely far outstrip our ability to produce them by a wide margin in the coming years.

breakfast, whole wheat cheerios, cereal, milk
Jocelyn Hsu

Before you go crying over spilled milk (sorry, I had to), there is hope. For starters, if you, like me, ditched dairy for environmental reasons, you'll be pleased to know that per calorie produced, almonds are still a much more efficient use of natural resources than traditional cow's milk. Additionally, as I said earlier, the amount of dairy alternatives on the shelves today is massive — there's a whole range of other, more eco-friendly dairy alternatives just waiting to be tried.

It may take a bit of time to find an alternative that you like as much as your almond milk, but when it comes to saving one of our planet's most precious and waning resources, I think you'll agree that it's worth it. Soy milk, rice milk, cashew milk, or hemp milk all allow you to enjoy your morning bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios while sticking to your dietary preferences and preserving the environment, all at the same time. So make the switch, and do your part to help save the planet, one soggy spoonful at a time.