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The library of essays of Proakatemia

Why there is no dairy milk in Proakatemia anymore?

Kirjoittanut: Seungyeon Shin - tiimistä SYNTRE.

Esseen tyyppi: Yksilöessee / 2 esseepistettä.

Information design workbook: graphic approaches, solutions, and inspiration
Kim Baer
Esseen arvioitu lukuaika on 5 minuuttia.

This year, SYNTRE took the Janitor team role for the community, and I happen to be a project manager of it. The reason why I stated “happen” to be a project manager is because it literally just happened only one day before the deadline for an offer. Even at the time when we were making an offer, I wasn’t taking it seriously. It was just more like, it is a great way to bring money to SYNTRE and there is nothing to lose to just make an offer.


“Whether we put cow milk in the offer or not” was controversial. We were aware that there were wishes to have cow milk option again and it wasn’t that we were ignoring them as we were aware that the Janitor team exist for Proakatemia community. But I, as a project manager, could not do that as it was totally against my important values which is why we ended up using the word “possibly” to bring cow milk again. As Flip Solution who was the previous Janitor team initiated ditching the cow milk, I didn’t want to go backwards, but find a smart way to bring more people towards plant-based milk.


How to make cow milk drinkers shift to plant-based milk, without giving them the feeling of “being forced” nor generating shame around drinking cow milk? This question has been on my mind since January, and not only educating myself about milk myths but also “the smart shift to planted-based milk” became a personal goal that I want to achieve as a janitor team project manager, or at least start a meaningful discussion. The initial plan was to bring very limited amount of cow milk weekly and put a note on a package showing how much of environmental impact that you can reduce by choosing the plant-based milk which I got an inspiration from Oatly. But I thought it wouldn’t be a good idea, as it might create a bitter feeling of consuming cow milk which can be received as a shaming.


At this point, it seems fair to ask if plant-based milks are more sustainable than the cow milk. How many of you have heard concerns or debates around plant-based milk whether it requires more water than the cow milk production or not. What about blame of deforestation for soya production in South America? Adam Henson who is the farmer of Britain said it’s better to choose the milk from local farm which contribute to the local economy rather than drinking soya milk that might be coming from South America where it caused deforestation and destruction of species. So, is this true? Let’s make it clear and debunk this matter.


First of all, water use. Adam Henson highlighted how water-intensive the almond farming is. According to scientific research: Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers, 371 liters of water is required to produce one liter of Almond milk. However, it important to note that over 628 liters of water is needed to produce one liter of cow milk which is nearly twice more than almond milk. And only 48 liters for oat and 28 liters for soy milk. (Poore 2018, 987-992) It is true that almond milk requires more water than the other plant-based milks, but there is no doubt that the water usage for dairy milk is significantly higher than different kinds of plant-based milk.


Secondly, greenhouse gas emission. Based on the study that was mentioned above, dairy milk is producing 3.15kg emission per liter, which is more than three times of soy milk and oat milk while almond milk making the least gas emission 0.7kg per liter. (Poore 2018, 987-992) Then what about soya farming in South America? The driving force for deforestation, species extinction, and displacing indigenous people is not soya milk but animal feed. Specifically, about 96 percent of the soya production in South America is used for animal feed or cooking oil. (Surge) We don’t use soya mlik in Proakatemia, but we use Alpro almond milk. In fact, Alpro sources their almod from Spain and other Mediterranean countries and most of the production is rain-fed. (Brown, 2019) Moreover, the soya milks from the brand such as Alpro source soya from Europe. (Surge)


Lastly, local cow’s milk that you buy from your neighbor isn’t more sustainable than those plant-based milk, as the problem of dairy is farming itself not the emission produced by traveling. To be clear, only about 3 percent of gas emission from 1kg of the milk is coming from transportation, whereas more than two of third is coming from farming and the land use. (Poore 2018, 987-992)

FIGURE 1. Dairy milk gas emission

And no, local cow’s milk is still not more sustainable because the problem with animal farming is the farming itself, not the distance the food has travelled. In fact, only around 3.5 per cent of the emissions produced by cows’ milk comes from transportation, meaning that buying cows’ milk with zero food miles makes almost no difference when comparing the sustainability of cows’ milk with plant milks.


Coming back to the initial question: How to make a “smart” shift to planted based milk, I could learn to get answer from Information Design Workbook. But first thing first, what is Information Design? The author Kim Baer describes his favorite definition of it which comes from the Society for Technical Communication (STC): “the transition of complex, unorganized, or unstructured data into valuable, meaningful information.” Good information design is content-focused and user-centric. Content-focused means the design is made with understanding of the purpose of the design and able to bring essential set of messages. Being user-centric means you are fully dedicated to understanding and catering what user want and need. It also implies that there can be barriers existing between the design and the users, as it can be perceived and taken differently depends on the people.(Kim 2021)


The examples from Aalto DF inspired me a lot, especially this one, as it doesn’t create any sort of bitter feeling but actually makes me smile, and willing to help David.

PICTURE 1. Aalto Design Factory example.


What I have experimented so far is coming up with this design that encourages and boosts people up with a smiley face for choosing plant-based milk instead of blaming or making people feel bad for using cow milk.

PICTURE 2. Design examples


The experience as a janitor team project manager has been certainly raised my interest towards information design: how to shift people’s norm or old habits in a smarter way. I hope this essay helped you to learn not only about the milk myths/plant-based milk myths but also just in general what Janitor team has been up to.




Reference list

  • Baer, K. Information design workbook: graphic approaches, solutions, and inspiration. Rockport Publishers.
  • Brown, R. The Grocer: How environmentally friendly is vegan milk? 15.09.2019. read on 01.03.2023 https://www.thegrocer.co.uk/plant-based/how-environmentally-friendly-is-vegan-milk/597897.article
  • Kim, B. Information design workbook: graphic approaches, solutions, and inspiration. Rockport Publishers.
  • Marinova, D; Bogueva, D. 2020. Which ‘milk’ is best for the environment? We compared dairy, nut, soy, hemp and grain milks. Read on 28.02.2023. https://theconversation.com/which-milk-is-best-for-the-environment-we-compared-dairy-nut-soy-hemp-and-grain-milks-147660
  • Poore, J; Nemecek, T. 2018. Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • Ritchie, H. 2019. Dairy vs. plant-based milk: what are the environmental impacts? https://ourworldindata.org/environmental-impact-milks
  • Plant milks are destroying the environment… or are they? Read on 27.02.2023 https://www.surgeactivism.org/plantmilks

Soonie from Entre.

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