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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Why coffee shops shouldn’t charge extra for non-dairy milk

Sustainability and inclusivity are just some of the benefits of making alternative milk more affordable


By EMILIE BROWN — emrbrown@ucdavis.edu


As a coffee aficionado and a proud planet-conscious consumer, I have always been on the lookout for ways to reduce my carbon footprint. So when I see a coffee shop or cafe promoting their eco-friendly values and offering non-dairy milk options like almond, soy or oat milk, I am all for it. But the majority of the time, these same coffee shops charge extra (a lot extra when you’re a broke college student) for milk alternatives. It’s time to spill the beans on why coffee shops need to stop charging customers who choose planet-friendly milk options more.

First and foremost, if coffee shops truly value sustainability, charging extra for alternative milk goes against their purported environmental principles. It’s like saying, “We care about the planet, but only if it doesn’t cost us anything.” It is a classic example of greenwashing, which is when companies claim to be environmentally conscious but repeatedly fail to back up that statement with meaningful actions.

Moreover, the argument that these shops charge more because milk alternatives cost more doesn’t hold water. It’s true that alternative milks are, on average, slightly more expensive than cow’s milk, but the price difference is minuscule. A standard gallon of alternative milk costs just $1.62 more than cow’s milk, which means that the average cafe drink costs as little as $0.06 more to make with a milk alternative than with cow’s milk. Yet some coffee shops have the audacity to charge as much as $1.25 extra for alternative milk. Coffee shops are profiting off of you making smart, environmentally conscious and health-conscious choices.

Additionally, charging extra for alternative milk perpetuates a classist coffee culture. It creates a divide between those who can afford the extra cost and those who can’t. It’s a luxury that not everyone can indulge in, and it’s unfair to penalize customers who are trying to make sustainable choices on a budget. The pursuit of eco-friendly living should not be a privilege reserved only for the wealthy, but rather an option available to everyone.

Here in Davis, so many students look forward to a refreshing, energizing cup of coffee to fuel our labs, discussions, lectures and assignments. But most of us need to save money for essentials, so we are torn between wanting to choose the eco-friendly option and not wanting to spend the extra money every time we buy a coffee.

Charging extra for alternative milk also goes against the spirit of inclusivity. Many people choose alternative milk options due to dietary restrictions, lactose intolerance or ethical reasons. By charging extra for these choices, coffee shops are essentially penalizing customers for their personal preferences and needs. It’s time to show some empathy and understanding toward the diverse needs of coffee drinkers and make alternative-milk options an inclusive and affordable choice for all. 

As consumers, we have the power to demand change. Next time you visit your local coffee shop, speak up, express your concerns and ask that the shop reconsider its pricing policy for alternative milks. Together, we can encourage coffee shops to align their practices with their proclaimed eco-friendly values. After all, a small change in pricing can lead to a big change for the planet. Let’s work together to create a coffee culture that truly values sustainability, inclusivity and affordability. Cheers to a brighter, greener and more delicious future!


Written by: Emilie Brown — emrbrown@ucdavis.edu

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by individual columnists belong to the columnists alone and do not necessarily indicate the views and opinions held by The California Aggie.