Issue #10: Yogurt Packaging?

Dear Sustainable Abigail,

I’m a huge yogurt person! Unfortunately, I always feel bad eating yogurt in Commons because we just have the individual yogurt cups (unless it’s a Sunday hooray for Greek Yogurt!), and it seems like a lot of packaging. I remember hearing once that Bates had some sort of deal with the Stonyfield Yogurt Company that allowed them to help with our sustainability. I can’t quite recall the details on that, but if that was the case at some point, is it still? Also, what exactly did it entail? Thanks so much!

-Don’t Want to Give Up Yogurt

Dear Don’t Want to Give Up Yogurt,

I too am an avid yogurt eater, and do understand where you are coming from with the concern about packaging. If every Bates student eats one yogurt everyday for a week that is around 14,000 wasted yogurt cups. In one month that becomes about 56,000, and in one academic year we’re looking at about 448,000 yogurt containers (give or take, this is a rough estimate).

In any case, that is a LOT of little wasted plastic containers. Fortunately, you are correct: Bates does have a great relationship with Stonyfield Farm and they actually collect and recycle all of these 448,000 yogurt cups! So every time you are eating a yogurt, don’t worry too much because Commons and Stonyfield are looking out for each of our individual impacts. Nonetheless, your question inspired me to do a little research regarding the sustainability of our yogurt. It turns out we are pretty lucky at Bates to support Stonyfield! Stonyfield is one hundred percent organic and to the best of their abilities aid and invest in family-farmer-supplied organic milk by not only exclusively purchasing milk from family farms, but also investing when they can in strategies to aid family farmers as well as in organic education and research. However, of course, there are a lot more factors that go into being sustainable.

One such that is great to have on your radar is the carbon footprint of the food products that you consume, or what is called the “CO2e” score of the product. This score is the “carbon dioxide equivalent” score, which references the amount of greenhouse gases emitted throughout the entire life cycle for a product. So for example, thinking about yogurt, the CO2e score of yogurt with fruit is about 306. Now, let’s compare that to an alternative breakfast food: a Tuesday or Thursday omelet with meat and cheese in it has a CO2e score of 1573! In other words, in terms of carbon footprint, there are many worse things than yogurt. Thinking about the carbon footprint of the different foods you eat is a great way to get serious about being sustainable in even more nuanced ways. Thanks so much for writing, and thanks for caring about the way your food has a big impact!

-Sustainable Abigail


*Content originally published in The Bates Student Newspaper*