Climate Change

Published on August 9th, 2021 | by Scott Cooney

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DIY Cashew milk – an encapsulation of climate solutions

I started making cashew milk without thinking too much of it – it was just a fun hobby, was the one nut milk that didn’t seem to need straining, resulted in the best tasting milk I’ve ever had, and seemed to save me money and convenience (on-demand milk saves trips to the stores, ya know?). But as I was very stoned one night recently, it occurred to me that DIY cashew milk is also a great climate saver.

As a climate advocate and a nerd, my brain often pontificates on things like embodied energy. And it occurred to me, as I was drinking cashew milk and eating cookies (yo, I said I was stoned…), that making my own cashew milk radically reduces the embodied energy (and therefore my carbon footprint) vs buying cashew milk from the store. The answer lies in the packaging and ridiculous amount of water that you’re paying for the shipping of. My recipe for cashew milk calls for 4 ounces (volume ounces, to be clear) of cashews, plus some salt and water, and yields a quart of cashew milk. I’ll post that recipe at the end of the article. It really is the best milk I’ve ever had, and did I mention, no straining…. But first….

Embodied energy

The term refers to the amount of energy used to bring a product through its life cycle. This includes the energy to make, process, and ship the product, and dispose of the remnants, if any.

Embodied energy is significant for climate, because the more embodied energy there is in a product, the more coal, oil, gas, etc., had to be burned…somewhere…in order to create that energy. Even if a product is all solar powered, that solar could be used somewhere else if the product itself had a smaller amount of embodied energy.

So for a box of cashew milk, embodied energy is the energy needed to:

  • grow the cashews (negligible)
  • harvest the cashews (negligible)
  • process the cashews (removing shells, etc)
  • making milk, including the embodied energy of the other ingredients, if any (probably pretty negligible)
  • create packaging for the cashews (boxes you get nut milk in are unrecyclable, with components like foil liners and plastic caps that are forever trash)
  • ship that package to the store (significant)
  • drive that package home from the store (somewhat significant)
  • dispose of the package after use (somewhat significant)

So taking the steps above, making DIY cashew milk greatly reduces the last four a bullets above. Yes, I’m still buying cashews in packaging, but it’s one package for what ends up being several dozen quarts of milk. And a great benefit is that you’re not shipping water.

If for some odd reason, you’re still drinking cow milk, first, 1946 called and said they want their false nutritional narrative back. Second, realize that it adds a LOT of embodied energy to the above equation, as you first have to grow a bunch of GMO corn, which requires bookoo amounts of chemicals (which have their own footprint), then process the GMO corn and ship it to cows, then move those 1000 pound cows back and forth between feedlots (and eventually the slaughterhouse), then REFRIGERATE the milk, which has a much higher embodied energy than nut milks that, thanks to modern packaging, don’t need refrigeration. Think of how much energy a refrigerated truck and/or shipping vessel uses vs unrefrigerated ones. And then multiply that by however many miles those cow milks are moving around. Then calculate how much of that spoils before it reaches its destination…the footprint adds up fast.

My recipe uses 4 volume ounces of cashews and yields a quart of cashew milk. That is two weighted ounces (based on the density of cashews), so a 40 (weight) ounce box of organic cashews will make 20 quarts of milk.

Let’s do the math to show how much it’ll save you – the lowest cost cashew milk I could find online was about $3.30. So 20 quarts of that is $66. The 40 ounce box of organic cashews costs $20 at Costco, and literally, it takes about 4 minutes to make cashew milk.

So effectively, you’re paying $46 to support the fossil fuel industries in their efforts at disrupting our climate. I mean, that’s nice of you, but hey, maybe keep the money, and use it to buy yourself more local organic veggies at the farmers market, and it’ll be a better investment for yourself and the planet.

Without further puns or adieu…

Cashew milk DIY recipe

Add dry cashews to a measuring cup up to the four volume ounce line.

Wash cashews, and jostle them. This will draw off a lot of the dust and reduce any contamination (I mean, we eat these raw all the time, so really this step is nitpicky stuff).

pardon the joke here, but…literally wash, rinse, repeat, until the water runs clear.

Soak for four hours, then drain off the soak water.

Add water to the highest level your blender will take (not to exceed the 32 oz mark, of course), plus salt to taste (I use two pinches per quart – very exact and scientific, I know)

Blend in a high power blender (Nutribullet, Vitamix, or the Ninja on single serve).

Dilute to your level of desired consistency – this recipe does well for 32 ounces of creamy milk, but if you’re ok with thinner milk, you could do less nuts, or more water.

Then, shake it well and um, drink it.

Soaking cashews makes them blend much more smoothly, so no cheese cloth straining is needed. The nice part of that is that if you do strain, you end up losing a lot of the nutrients, so this recipe keeps the nutrients. Yes, the milk has some grit, but it’s really minimal and you get used to it quick as you’re counting your money and gloating to your friends about how much of a climate badass you are. It does mean that you’ll want to shake the milk before drinking, as it will separate a bit.

Enjoy being a climate champ.

 

 

 





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About the Author

Scott Cooney is a serial eco-entrepreneur including being the solo founder of Pono Home, HomeEfficiency.com, and CleanTechnica; author of two books; former sustainability consultant with clients including Johnson & Johnson, Eastman Chemical, Wal-Mart, and Duke Energy; former Adjunct teaching the first course in sustainable business in the MBA program at UH Manoa; lover of local, healthy food and especially vegan nachos. Find Scott on Twitter



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