Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Impact of One Choice

I looked at my big half-gallon mason jar of goat's milk in the refrigerator this morning and contemplated all the ramifications of this one small choice we made in finding a local dairy to buy it from.

Previously, the only way we could buy goat's milk at the store was in one-quart cartons. That meant for every gallon of milk our family drank, four containers went into the recycling bin. Sure, recycling is better than throwing them away, but it still takes a non-negligible amount of resources to truck them to the recycling center and actually recycle them into something else. Now, we have mason jars that we return to the goat farmer to be re-used each time. This also means that somewhere in a factory, they do not need to make four more cartons every week and ship them to the large dairy (in gas-burning trucks on interstates) to be used. Somewhere there is a tree that won't be cut down this year to make our paper milk cartons.

Somewhere, there is a truck that won't need to haul four more milk cartons from California to Oregon. There are gallons of fuel that won't be spent in simply getting my milk from the dairy to my home. There is a big homogenizing machine that won't be fired up to heat my milk up to high temperatures, thus killing all the beneficial antibodies in it as well as any harmful bacteria. Because my milk will come to me within a day of coming out of the goat, we can drink it raw.

There is a local farmer who meets me face-to-face and takes my dollar bills directly from my hand. There is a person-to-person connection being made, and money being kept in our local economy. There is a goat farm somewhere that isn't being turned into a subdivision, a dairy that isn't being subsumed by a large conglomerate. There is land that isn't being turned into pavement and Chem-lawns.

The implications of this one decision spiral outwards in myriad ways that I can't even imagine. My farmer is probably buying hay from a local hay farmer, or growing it himself. The CO2 emissions saved in every step of the long chain in this one small decision are undoubtably higher than I would even guess. Having recently seen An Inconvenient Truth, the repercussions of my decision do not seem trivial to me.

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