Thursday, August 14, 2008

Challenge 11: Drink Milk - From Reusable Jugs

I grew up in the rural part of Pennsylvania. Near our borough, there was a dairy that milked their cows, and pasteurized and bottled their milk on site. We drove to ‘the milk store’ once every other week, with a cooler in the car, to pick up our milk. Needless to say, with milk like that, I was a big milk-drinker.

I went away to college, and poured some watery white stuff on my cereal, and didn’t drink too many glasses of the stuff. On one trip home, anticipating a nice glass of milk, I found a plastic jug in my parent’s fridge. Sadly, the dairy couldn’t make it anymore, and stopped bottling their own milk and started selling to another company. If only they had been able to hold on another few years.

Reusable glass milk jugsThe use of re-fillable glass bottles in the dairy industry is seeing a resurgence. In the St Louis area, there are two local dairies that supply not only stores such as Whole Foods, but also the local ‘regular’ grocery stores, and my favorite locavore depot, Local Harvest Grocery. Basically, at any store from which I buy groceries, I can buy milk in a re-fillable glass bottle.

The store charges me a bottle deposit fee. This helps to ensure the return and reuse of the bottle. My husband and I joke that it’s our saving account, as we often forget to take the bottles back with us. Our last trip to return bottles, to one of the dairy’s stores, resulted in us paying 47 cents for two ice cream sundaes, because our bottle return was so ‘profitable’. See, savings account.

Buying milk in glass bottles also helps keep farms smaller, and accountable. The milk is labeled with their family name, not a generic store label. The dairy is also directly selling to the store, eliminating the middleman.

Glass bottles also do not leach chemicals into the milk and produce no off-flavors (think milk in wax cartons). The dairy collects them when they make a delivery to the store, wash and sterilize them and re-fill them at the dairy, likely very close to where the cows are milked. Yes, this takes energy, but reusing is better than recycling.

Hopefully, there is a dairy near you producing and selling milk in glass bottles. Make sure to buy re-fillable glass bottles, as that is more environmentally friendly than bottles that are only recyclable. If it’s not available in your area, be sure to let the store manager know.

Now if only the soda industry would return to this practice, as they still do in foreign countries.

Dairies Using Glass Bottles for Milk in US

REduce Packaging and Reuse materialsSelecting the most environmentally friendly packaging should be part of my criteria for purchasing food, to REDUCE waste and to select containers that are REUSABLE.

Environmental decisions in everyday lifeTo anyone who helps to bring milk to their area stores in re-usable glass milk jugs.
I hope to get a few green bonus points for myself by visiting the one dairy soon to see their operation.



On a limb with Claudia said...

We get milk in recycled plastic bottles delivered fresh from the dairy in Natural Gas trucks. I leave the bottle out, they wash it and use it again. Each bottle is tracked so that when it's used a certain number of times, it's removed from production. How's that for green!? ;) (The company wins "green" awards every year.)

Anita K said...

Green Bonus Points to Claudia!

To the other readers, that's a Western State where milk is available in re-usable jugs!