Opinion: Dairy-Free Milk Should Not Come at a Cost

SUNY New Paltz students drink a lot of coffee. When it comes to picking one’s poison, there are a lot of choices on campus, many that allow additional customations including adding an extra espresso shot and changing milk preference. No matter which establishment you order your drink from, however, you’ll notice an additional charge for non-dairy milk. 

Soy milk and almond milk are available alongside cow’s milk at the dining hall but everywhere else you’re paying extra to add them. Last semester, adding almond milk or soy milk to coffee was 70 cents extra at Sojourner Truth Cafe and Element 93 which both serve Peet’s Coffee. The Starbucks on campus has kept its price consistent at 70 cents, while all Peet’s subsidiaries have raised the price of non-dairy milk by 10 cents to 80 cents in 2020. 

10 cents may not seem like much, but the climbing prices of non-dairy milk on campus shed light on the contradiction between SUNY’s proclamations regarding sustainability and their financial priorities. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, agriculture is responsible for up to half of all methane emissions, and livestock alone account for about a quarter of methane emissions. Consuming less dairy is one way the campus can reduce its carbon footprint, something President Donald P. Christian has expressed overwhelming interest in doing. 

However, SUNY continues to allow on-campus businesses to make non-dairy milk inaccessible to students, many of whom cannot afford to pay extra for non-dairy milk when cow’s milk is free with their beverage. If SUNY New Paltz was really committed to reducing their carbon footprint, they would put pressure on companies to reduce or eliminate the extra charge for non-dairy milk on campus. Students should not be forced to cover the cost of sustainability. If companies like Peet’s, Sodexo and Starbucks will not make non-dairy alternatives accessible they should either be removed from campus or SUNY should use the profits it earns from hosting these companies to subsidize almond, soy and oat milks.

The price hike of non dairy milk affects anyone trying to consume less dairy, but also students with lactose intolerance or other allergies. In this way, it’s not only bad business for SUNY, but discriminatory towards lower income students who deserve to have their dietary needs and wants met. I encourage the administration to do better if it wants to make this campus a more accessible and welcoming environment for all students.