On the subject of milk

When I was small, I lived down a lane, past a dairy farm. For about 18 years we used to get our milk straight from the farm. We had an old fashioned four pint milk pail, and we’d drop it off in the morning on the way to work and school, and pick it up on the way home. I learned young to hold onto the milk can in the car on the way home because it ends up smelling pretty bad if you spill milk on car upholstery. When we didn’t pick up the milk on the way home because the cows hadn’t been milked yet or something, we’d walk the dog up to the farm to collect it. Swinging a milk can by your side as you walk is really really fun. So is cycling home with it hanging from the handlebars of your bike. Basically, my childhood was a rural 80s idyll, and I wasn’t allowed a shell suit to spoil it.

an artist's impression of my childhood
an artist’s impression of my childhood

My parents still live there, the dairy farm doesn’t farm any more. We had to stop getting our milk from the farm during the Foot and Mouth crisis, and never did again. A few years later the farmer retired.

I was thinking about this today, because I was in a conference session that was looking at the theology of creation care and talking about practical ways the church in Central America is engaging with this. A common theme in the case studies was the church dealing with rubbish. It might seem small, but it’s a very present problem here.

During the conversation someone mentioned that Central American countries don’t generate nearly the amount of rubbish that the global north does. And the young woman who had been talking about the workshops that she runs for her centre said, ‘No, we don’t, but we don’t have the waste management, and so the rubbish we do make is much more noticeable and does more damage.’

I don’t have to be aware of how much rubbish I generate at home in the UK because the council take it away and deal with it. I don’t have to ask how. That doesn’t happen here. Trash generally stays where it gets thrown, until it gets blown or washed on, or maybe burnt. So clearing up rubbish or making less of it has a notable effect. As a woman pointed out in a workshop I was at yesterday, clearing up rubbish can reduce mosquitos and then mosquito borne diseases like dengue and zika. She and some of her church have started a twice weekly rubbish collection and people volunteer to join in when they can.

The workshops I was hearing about today are part of Mision 3R – reduce, reuse, recycle. The team and volunteers running the sessions talk about the biblical principles of caring for creation befor helping the churches think about some practical things that they can do. And I realised that my family generates more rubbish now than it did when I was a kid just in plastic milk bottles.

(Also, I’ve never had a church talk to me about recycling in relation to actual discipleship, I’m just saying)

I mean, we recycle the milk bottles. It’s just a shame that we need them. The milk used to go from the pail into a jug in the fridge. They both got washed up and reused. They may well both be plant pots by now. My parents still live where I grew up and you can’t get milk deliveries in reuseable bottles down there. It doesn’t seem to make sense for farmers to sell milk like our neighbour used to do to us – economically or in terms of all the various health and safety regulations, and as far as I’ve seen our farm shops sell milk in plastic bottles, not glass ones that can be brought back and reused. I wish they would. There’s got to be a way to do milk in reusable containers at farmers markets.

I live in London, and I try and get my milk from the same people who do my vegetable box each week. It comes in a plastic bottle.

Just because I don’t have to notice the extra rubbish doesn’t mean it isn’t there. But it doesn’t all have to be. I use very little milk (like, less than a pint a week) so it probably doesn’t make sense for me to find a local milk delivery service that would take the bottles back and reuse them, though I know they exist. But my current delivery service could. My vegetables come in a cardboard box tied up with string. Each week I leave the previous empty box out to be taken away and reused. I could very easily leave a glass or other reusable kind of bottle with it, and I would. I would also get a totally cute milk jug for my fridge. yiu must be able to get majestically hipster mini milk pails in East London somewhere.

Enough people use this particular company that if everyone who got their milk from them had reuseable bottles, it would surely make at least a little bit of difference on the energy involved in making and recycling so many plastic bottles.

How about it Abel and Cole?


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