Earth Day and Your Milk Purchase Can Make a Difference

Bagged milk
 on March 31, 2022

Earth Day this year is on Friday, April 22. Although Earth Day is just one day on the calendar, we should strive to live as if every day has become an Earth Day.

We all have to protect the only planet that we know can sustain us. As Christians we should show the world that we are willing to make sacrifices to do this. This is the moment to change it all—the business climate, the political climate, and how we act on climate.

The Earth Day theme for 2022 is “Invest in Our Planet”. If we do not invest in our planet, then the Earth will no longer support life as we know it.

One tiny way that we can do this is by keeping up to date with research. A friend of mine, Mary Anne White, professor emerita in the Department of Chemistry, Dalhousie University, has recently published this paper: “Milk Jugs, Cartons, or Plastic bags: Which One is Best for the environment?” Below is an excerpt.

If you are a typical Canadian milk consumer, you probably drink more than 60 litres of milk a year. It adds up to about two billion milk containers purchased in Canada annually.

Milk comes in an unusually wide array of packaging. In Canada, the most common milk containers are rigid high-density polyethylene jugs, plastic-laminated paper cartons and milk bags. Reusable glass bottles are rare, and that’s good, since they have the highest global warming potential of all beverage containers.” (Note added by the author: This comment applies to glass bottles that are used once. Glass bottles re-used eight times, which is typical, have the same environmental impact as jugs, twice that of cartons, and about 10 times that of milk bags.)

My colleagues and I, chemists and physicists who work in materials research and energy storage, were interested in consumer issues related to sustainability. We recently assessed the environmental impacts of milk jugs, cartons and bags in Toronto and Halifax, and found that milk bags were the most environmentally friendly option.

With this new information, will consumers swing over to milk bags? Bagged milk is sold only in four-litre allotments in Canada, which may be too much for some consumers, leading to unconsumed or spoiled milk. This would wipe out any envir-onmental benefits.

Stand-alone one-litre milk pouches are now available in Germany. While these are heavier than our bags, they would still be better than jugs or cartons.

Your inner milk bags can also be washed and used as freezer bags before discarding in the garbage. (Hamilton is not able to recycle this type of plastic.) Your outer milk bags can be reused to make mats. Someone in your church may know of someone who does this.

This may seem like a very small thing that you and I can do, but if we all do it, we can make a difference. You can never underestimate the power of a collection of dedicated individuals.


To read the full article excerpted above, please click here.

  • Rosemary Horsewood

    Rosemary Horsewood is climate justice facilitator from Christ Church, Flamborough.

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