Q. I say it's greener to drink organic milk because it encourages organic farmers, uses no pesticide, etc. My husband says it isn't greener because we can't recycle the cardboard containers in our town. Who's right?
A. Well obviously… ok, this one has no clear solution, says Michael Straus. His family founded the first organic dairy west of the Mississippi, Straus Family Creamery, and now runs Straus Communications, the nation's first PR agency to specialize in organic food, sustainable agriculture and environmental issues.
According to Straus, when it comes to organic milk, 'green' can have multiple considerations. These include certified organic; local production; small- or large-scale dairy; packaging; and commitment to environmental practices such as converting methane from cow poop into energy, or implementing water conservation measures. “Our family dairy packages milk in returnable, refillable glass bottles and is now independently verifying that all feeds and ingredients are GMO-free, above and beyond certified organic requirements,” he says.
"There is no right or greener answer, and the sad truth is that the marketplace provides few options, all of which require environmental trade-offs. I believe the environmental solution lies not in this purchasing decision, but in demanding better solutions from manufacturers and government policymakers," Straus says.
If being unable to recycle milk containers makes you feel guilty, then consider repurposing the containers around the house. Check out the myriad websites offering instructions on milk-carton crafts, such as making a carton into a birdhouse.
Story by Anneli Rufus and Kristan Lawson. This article originally appeared in Plenty in May 2008. The story was added to MNN.com.