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Reduce dairy in your diet

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Bovine breast milk goes great with your cereal, but its production contributes 4 per cent to global greenhouse gas emissions. Halve your dairy consumption, explore the alternatives and help the environment.

The main benefit in reducing the amount of dairy in your diet and shifting to non-dairy alternatives (for example soya) may not be to save money, but rather your wellbeing and impact on the environment.

The environmental impact of shifting half your dairy consumption to non-dairy alternatives is not simple to calculate, however in 2005 the University of NSW and CSIRO conducted a triple bottom line analysis of 135 sectors of the Australian economy called "Balancing Act", from which it is possible to calculate the environmental impact derived from a dollar spent in any particular industry sector.

Using the 'dairy products' sector the environmental benefits of reducing your dairy consumption by half are as follows:

  • Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions – 1,270.2 kg CO2 p.a.
  • Reduction in water use – 421,080 litres p.a.
  • Reduction in land disturbance - 2,459 m2 or 0.246 hectares p.a.

If the reduction in dairy products consumption was matched with a corresponding increase in vegetable and fruit growing (where soy production is counted), consumption is as follows:

  • Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions – 409 kg CO2 p.a.
  • Reduction in water use – 104,197 litres p.a.
  • Reduction in land disturbance - 226 m2 or 0.0226 hectares p.a.

These environmental benefits of shifting half your dairy consumption to alternatives would be as follows:

  • Reduction in greenhouse gas emissions – 861 kg CO2 p.a.
  • Reduction in water use – 316,883 litres p.a.
  • Reduction in land disturbance - 2233 m2 or 0.223 hectares p.a.

So eat and drink well and help us move to a more sustainable and healthy diet.

How to do it now!

According to Dairy Australia Australians consume over 100 litres of milk and over 20kg of cheese, butter and yoghurt each year.

Given the increasing incidence of lactose intolerance, there is now a wide range of milk and dairy alternatives available, derived from plants. The most popular of these, soy milk, can be substituted for cows milk in most instances and has all the nutrients of cows milk without the lactose, saturated fat and cholesterol.

Lactose Intolerance is when a person has difficulty or is unable to digest milk sugars from dairy products. It is rare for caucasians to develop lactose intolerance. The condition is more common among Indigenous Australians and people from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and some Mediterranean countries. Symptoms include bloating, gas, abdominal pain and diarrhoea.

Source: Victorian Government’s Better Health Channel.

Why is this action important?

This simple shift in our eating habits can significantly reduce our contribution to climate change, save hundreds of thousand of litres of water and reduce the amount of land required to support our consumption.