The Ugly Truth about Almonds

harvesting almonds


Almonds have become the most popular nuts in the United States in recent years, but do we ever stop to think about the impact of almonds on our environment?  

Almonds have become the most widely consumed nut in this country due to their impressive nutritional benefits and versatility. Almonds are full of healthy mono-unsaturated fats, fiber, vitamin E and magnesium and have been shown to have a multitude of benefits on overall health. It’s no wonder Americans love them so much! Demand for almonds has increased a whopping 400% since 1980 as products like almond milk and almond butter have become mainstream. As we consume more and more almonds every year, it’s important to stop and think about the effect that this popular food has on the environment.  

The main problems with almonds from a sustainability standpoint are water and pesticide use. An enormous amount of water is needed in the production of almonds. It takes 1.1 gallons of water to grow a single almond and roughly 1,600 gallons to produce one liter of almond milk.  California grows almost 100% of almonds in the U.S. and has been in drought for most of the last decade. A disproportionate 10% of the agricultural water supply in California is devoted to growing almonds. California’s water supply comes from three main places: snowpack, reservoirs and groundwater. Groundwater is relied upon much more heavily during droughts when the snowpack and reservoirs are depleted. As droughts increase, more and more groundwater is being depleted. Many Californians also rely on groundwater as their only source of drinking water. The current practice of using vast amounts of this precious water for growing almonds could have disastrous long-term effects. California simply does not have enough water to support growing this number of almonds forever.  

Pesticides are also a big problem when it comes to almonds. More pesticides are used on almonds than any other crop in the state of California. One of the most widely used pesticides is glyphosate (Roundup). Roundup is toxic to bees, which are essential for pollinating almond trees. Most people are unaware that 85% of all almonds are treated are treated with Roundup, contributing significantly to the steep decline in bee populations that has been seen in recent years. Pesticides also seep into the groundwater supply, contaminating the already limited supply of water in California and making it unsafe for human consumption.  

If you are concerned about the environment, consider cutting back on your almond consumption. There are also many delicious and sustainable options such as hazelnuts and peanuts. Non-dairy alternatives such as oat milk and hemp milk are also more sustainable choices. If you do consume almonds, think about buying organic. Pesticides cannot be used on organic nuts, which makes them a more sustainable choice in this case. Although organic nuts are more expensive than conventional nuts, they are a better option for helping to protect our bee populations and reducing the amount of pesticides that end up in our water supply. Non-dairy milk alternatives such as hemp milk and oat milk require a fraction of the water that almond milk does to produce.  

It is important to consider the impact our favorite foods have on our environment. Making the switch to one of these alternatives is delicious and helps the environment at the same time! 


About the Author

Jenna Lee received her Master of Science in Nutrition degree and completed her dietetic internship at Bastyr University. 




Fleischer D. Almond Milk is Taking a Toll on the Environment. UCSF Office of Sustainability. Published January 2018. Accessed February 1, 2020. 

McGivney A. 'Like sending bees to war': the deadly truth behind your almond milk obsession. The Guardian. Published January 8, 2020. Accessed February 1, 2020. 

Robbins O. Are Almonds Sustainable? Food Revolution Network. Published June 7, 2019. Accessed February 1, 2020. 

Guibourg C, Briggs H. Climate change: Which vegan milk is best? BBC News. Published February 22, 2019. Accessed February 1, 2020.