And as I examine the close link between food and waste, I realise that this post could just as well be headed ‘food’.
Spurred on by observing that I was responsible for a worrying number of empty plastic milk containers going into our recycling, I decided to do something to reduce it. At the same time, I learned more about the environmental impact of dairy farming. Making significant changes to my diet began to feel more important.
The first thing I did was to find out how much dairy produce I consumed. I was drinking a large amount of milk – around a pint every single day. First of all on my daily breakfast cereal (either muesli or porridge), then in my daily morning coffee (half coffee, half milk – a very large mug). Plus added cups of cafe latte when we were out in cafes. Then there was cheese, and sometimes yoghurt. A small amount of butter and extra milk in cooking.
Over the past year I have managed to drastically reduce the amount of dairy I use by about half. I did this by completely cutting out milk from coffee (apart from the very occasional latte treat out). To my surprise, I no longer miss it. This step alone greatly reduced the number of plastic bottles I was responsible for.
The next important step came when I discovered that a local organic dairy farm had bought an on-site milk machine where customers could buy their own milk in reusable bottles. I first saw one of these years ago when we visited my cousin’s son in Germany. I was so excited to find that at last I could do the same close to home.
Just over a year ago I began buying all the milk I use there. I bought 4 glass bottles from them, and since then all the milk I use comes in these same bottles. Unless I drop and smash a bottle, I can see no reason why I won’t carry on using them forever (I bought a few spare replacement lids recently, realising that the lids may eventually fail long before the bottles ever do). At a stroke, I’m no longer responsible for putting plastic bottles into the waste cycle, and I’m supporting a local organic farm. By reducing the amount of milk I use, I’ve also reduced my contribution to the climate crisis.
I currently drive the 4 miles to the farm to buy my milk. To reduce the number of journeys I need to take to keep myself supplied with milk, last year I began making all my milk into yoghurt. This prolongs the fridge life of the milk, and I find that the 2 litres I generally buy last around 12 days or so before I run out – I may experiment with making 3 litres at a time, and see how long that lasts. I’m also considering whether I could walk or cycle there and back instead of driving. Maybe I’ll give that a go sometime soon.
I calculate that having started this drinking approximately 7 pints of milk every week, I have reduced it to just over 2 pints a week. In so doing, I’ve switched entirely to drinking milk produced locally and removed all the plastic bottles from the supply and waste stream, plus of course the carbon cost of transporting the milk (and bottles). This won’t save the world, but I believe it’s a step in the right direction.
So, in answer to my question ‘how did it go?’, I’d say really very well. Far better than I imagined when I started on this journey. These changes are definitely keepers. And I’ll continue further along this route.