A Zero Waste Project: Homemade Oat Milk

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Homemade oat milk on the left, store bought on the right. Making your own oat milk from scratch helps contribute to efforts of zero waste and sustainability. Photo courtesy of author.

Last year I finally made the decision to stop eating meat to decrease my carbon footprint. Vegetarianism has long been hailed as an easy lifestyle change to live more sustainably — plants just take less energy, space and water to grow than animals. Veganism may be somewhat of a larger debate overall, but regardless of how you feel about animal cruelty, certain animal products have been proven to have a bigger impact on the earth than plant-based alternatives.  

One of the most popular examples is milk: Plant-based alternatives like soy, almond, coconut, rice or oat milk have found a market for more than just the lactose-intolerant.  

While buying a different kind of milk may not seem like a directly zero-waste swap (undoubtedly it still comes in some kind of carton that will still be disposed of), remember that zero waste and sustainability are about more than just the waste you can see. Besides this week not only did I try out a new plant-based milk, but I made my own oat milk from scratch.  

Why make this swap? 

According to a BBC article, dairy milk produces three times more greenhouse gas emissions than any plant-based alternative. When you look at the break-down the article provided, dairy milk also uses significantly more land and water as well. 

I’ve long been an almond-milk buyer, and although the BBC reports almond milk producing fewer emissions, oat milk uses less water to produce. Plus, oat milk is relatively easy to make at home, which means the only waste I’ll create comes from buying oats. 

Supplies needed to make your own oat milk: blender, water, old-fashioned oats, T-shirt or towel to strain, and a bottle to hold the milk at the end. Photo courtesy of author.

What I did 

According to the internet, oat milk is super easy to make. While I did find it easy to make, the results were somewhat questionable. 

Following instructions from the Minimalist Baker blog, I gathered my supplies: 1 cup of rolled or “old-fashioned” oats (which I actually had left over from my homemade granola bars), 4 cups of water, a blender, a t-shirt to use as a strainer, and a bottle to hold my finished product.  

The process may have been relatively easy, but it was super messy. I started by blending the oats and water together for 30-45 seconds. The next step is to use a t-shirt or a towel to strain the mixture. I started out trying to use a classic Oozeball t-shirt I got at Spring Weekend two years ago to strain the mixture out into a large pot. It turned out the pot was too large and the shirt was too thick, so I traded these out for a kitchen towel and a smaller saucepan. Things went a little more quickly at this point, but I still got lots of goopy oat remains in my sink and pretty much all over my kitchen.  

The yield was a little over a cup of homemade oat milk. To test it out, I tried it in a bowl of Cheerios, where it honestly tasted kind of watery.  

The homemade oat milk in a bowl of Cheerios. Making your own oat milk from scratch helps contribute to efforts of zero waste and sustainability. Photo courtesy of author.

What this means for you 

I’ve tried oat milk before, and I like it somewhat better than almond milk, but at my usual grocer (Walmart) the oat milk is significantly more expensive, which is why I wanted to try to make it myself.  

Ideally, if you get a little more practiced at this than I was for round one, you could make a cup of oat milk with relatively little cost, time and mess. I definitely don’t recommend trying this for the first time in a dorm room, and probably wouldn’t suggest it if you’re looking for a larger quantity of milk. This homemade milk probably wouldn’t make a great glass of chocolate milk to drink straight, but would probably work just fine in scrambled eggs or mac’n’cheese. If you don’t use much milk, this might be an option for you. 

Coming up next: Zero-waste makeup 

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