How to cut your dairy consumption to help the environment
Scientists have warned livestock production needs to reach its peak by 2030, if we’re going to effectively tackle the climate crisis.
In a letter to the Lancet Planetary Health journal, researchers say: “Restoring natural vegetation, such as forest, is currently the best option at scale for removing CO2 from the atmosphere.” An increased adoption of plant-based diets, and reducing meat and dairy animal numbers to free up land many currently occupy, could allow for the restoration of forests, aka ‘natural carbon sinks’.
But while lots of us are already doing meat-free Mondays, upping our veg intake and being more flexitarian when it comes to animal products, cutting out the cheeseboard can still seem quite daunting.
Instead of going full cold-Cheddar, here are a few easy ways to trim your dairy consumption…
Don’t waste a bit
When you do choose to eat cheese and dairy, follow David Attenborough’s advice: “Live the way you want to live but just don’t waste.” So use it all – don’t waste even a slice. Grate any odds and ends of cheese into a bag and freeze for the next time you need a lasagne topping; chuck Parmesan rinds into stews for depth and flavour; turn leftover cream cheese into cream cheese icing; if you’re going on holiday, freeze your milk so it’ll still be fresh when you get back; and turn natural yoghurt into pasta sauce or use it to bulk up pancake batter.
Try alternative milks
If your dairy concerns revolve around environmental as well as animal cruelty factors, what you put in your tea can be a serious sticking point. Soya, almond and oat milks are all now widely available, but do come with their own sustainability issues. FYI, herbal teas just need hot water…
“Do you want cheese with that?” – it’s a question that comes up fairly often in restaurants and fast food places, whether you’re ordering burger and nachos, or there’s a side of halloumi fries on offer. Stick with your main, say no to the extras – the planet will appreciate it.
Use alternative cheese
Vegan cheeses are becoming increasingly convincing, and many even melt like the real stuff now.
Make the most of coconut products
If you can’t imagine starting the day without a bowl of yoghurt, look to coconut alternatives – the same goes for ice cream. Although with ice cream, you could just make the switch to sorbet (it’s basically just frozen ice!).
Switch up your toppings
You might want to grate cheese all over your pasta, but does it really need it? Would you be OK with a bit more sauce? Or a handful of herbs? Or a piece of garlic bread on the side instead? Consider your options before reaching for the Parmesan.
Change the menu
There is always an alternative dish to choose (after all, people with lactose intolerance have been dodging dairy long before anyone clocked onto the environmental benefit). So you might want to avoid the cheese fondue or the four cheese, but you can still have pizza – marinara anyone?
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