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Dairy industry rallies for sustainability


Got sustainability?

Four years ago, when we started TerraPass, I never would have predicted that I’d someday be participating in a three-day sustainability initiative organized by the dairy industry. Especially one attended by Wal-Mart execs. But I’m please to report that the conference was a big success, sparking lots of interesting conversations about ways to green the supply chain of this carbon-intensive industry.

I had some big takeaways that I wanted to share with the TerraPass community:

First, we’re fond of saying that you can’t manage it unless you measure it. The conference smartly has completed a draft carbon analysis, as well as first-pass estimates of which types of changes reduce the most emissions. This was invaluable.

Second, there is broad recognition from the dairy industry of the issue of methane emissions from milk production, and a desire to ways to rapidly increase the number of methane digesters like the ones on TerraPass-supported farms. This was seen by everyone as a big near-term reduction opportunity. Dennis Haubenschild, a dairy farmer and TerraPass project developer, delivered an enlightening talk on the opportunities and hurdles.

Third, in addition to digesters, there are lots of smaller ideas offering quick wins that together could add up to significant reductions. Slimmer packaging, better refrigeration, combined heat and power projects, climate-friendly refrigerants, eliminating dual-layer yogurt lids, shelf-stable packaging (requiring less refrigeration), better nitrogen management on crop fields, route efficiency for milk trucks, and even water-jug style milk-dispensing machines! We are so focused on methane digesters, and it’s nice to see the rest of the industry working on solutions.

Normally we don’t blog our conference goings-on — TerraPass members rightly expect us to be focusing on our projects, or finding new energy-saving gadgets for them. But just imagine what would happen if your industry, whatever it is, got the whole supply chain together for three days to brainstorm ways to reduce the industry’s impact on climate change? Let us know in the comments if there are similar initiatives going on, or what could happen if there were.

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