Whether it’s as a probiotic booster, a healthy snack, or a coffee creamer, dairy products can come packaged in a whole lot of plastic. With a little imagination or some time in the kitchen, this can easily be circumnavigated.
One quick fix that doesn’t eliminate plastic entirely, but does cut it down, is avoiding purchasing single-serving yogurts and cheese treats. Buying in bulk saves money and plastic karma. You can always portion into school- or work-sized snacks in metal or glass reusable containers later. This gives you the option to add nuts or other personalized bites, too.
A few farms and shops around town serve dairy products in refundable glass or reusable plastic containers. This usually means meeting the person who has made your food or supporting a more local economy, which just feels good anyway. Cheese can also be found in bulk at a local deli where they will wrap up the perfect amount for you in butcher paper or your own to-go container.
If you’re more adventurous and want to start making some of the easier dairy products out there, start with yogurt or kefir. You can find starter kits along with the simple instructions to get you going. It’s a fun project to do with the kids, and minimizes exposure to unwanted sweeteners and preservatives, along with single-use plastic containers.
You can also try your hand at homemade cheeses. Cottage cheese, ricotta, queso fresco,and mozzarella can all be made in a very short period of time with delightful results. A few basic materials and ingredients on hand – like cheesecloth, bacterial culture, citric acid, and rennet - will make it possible for you to whip these up on a whim whenever you’ve run out.
Chocolate peanut butter ice cream anyone? Homemade ice cream can be made from just a few ingredients you likely already have in your pantry and fridge. And lest you be dismayed that you don’t have an ice cream machine, there are no-churn recipes out there as well. For dairy-free fans, there is no shortage of frozen treat ideas. Some are of the coconut milk variety, and others involve avocados made into a chocolaty mousse that needs to be tried before being dismissed.
Another plastic-reducing dairy-free project for home is to make a simple nut milk. Almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, and oats can all be soaked, blended, and strained into milk; dates, vanilla, or other flavourings can be added for a customized flavour. Admittedly, there are growing concerns about the almond industry and its reliance on bees for pollination – bees are often exposed to pesticides and parasites in the process. The cashew industry has also being critiqued for its poor working conditions. So, your best bet may be local nuts, like hazelnuts, or oats, which can make a surprisingly creamy dairy substitute.
Our food packaging doesn’t need to outlast our food by a few hundred years. Enjoy exploring these and other alternatives to a plastic-free lifestyle.
Let’s Talk Trash is qathet Regional District’s waste-reduction education program.