Please read this first...

If you want to know what I'm on about in the shortest time then please read the introductory first post and my current action plan. Comments are very welcome. And if you like this blog, please tell a friend. Thanks!

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Time for a Break

(To anybody who thinks I'm going to slow down on the blogging - ha! No way, check out the length of this post!)

You know about my long hot showers. You know about my three-thousand-litres-of-fuel-a-year car. And now it's time for me to 'fess up to another unsustainable aspect of my life...

"My name is Terry, and I'm an Ice Break-oholic."

My Ice Break addiction started in about 1995. Michelle was living adjacent to a cluster of small shops which included a Brumby's bakery and a Night Owl convenience store. We'd long known about the delights of fresh Brumby's blueberry muffins with a coffee as breakfast on a clear Brisbane morning. But this fateful day I was in the mood for a coffee-flavoured milk drink instead of a hot beverage, and an odd-looking brown plastic bottle caught my eye from the shelf adjacent to the usual tetra pack flavoured milk varieties.

Real filtered coffee in a cold milk drink instead of the usual powdered stuff? Yeah, I'd give that a try.

It's hard to say for sure, but since that day I have probably consumed something like five thousand bottles of the stuff. It could easily be more. With the smallest package size being 500ml, we're talking about at least two and a half thousand litres of milk. And well over ten thousand dollars.

Well hey, how I choose to spend my money is mostly my own business. But in the context of sustainable consumption there are some serious problems here. Let's start with the obvious ones.

Firstly there's the milk. Between 500ml and a litre (occasionally, but not often more) of milk each day is probably a lot more than the average. It's generally considered healthy to have some dairy foods in your diet for the sake of calcium, and in fact those of us with European ancestry may owe our existence to the genetic mutation which first allowed people to digest the nutrition in cow's milk. But cows are not native to Australia. Cattle cause substantial damage to our native landscape, and the dairy industry is a significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

The second problem is the packaging. Five thousand plastic bottles, all of them produced from oil, all of them requiring energy for production and again for recycling.

Then there's the transport. It's a fresh milk product, which means it has a very short lifetime in which to travel from the milking shed to my lips. Inevitably this means oil-consuming road transport. Not to mention the coffee, which was itself probably sourced from overseas. (I don't know, I'm just guessing about that.)

Fresh milk also requires constant refridgeration - again using significant amounts of energy which were largely provided by burning coal.

And if that doesn't sound like an inefficient, unsustainable practice... I hang my head in shame to recall the period during which I would drive my car (yes, the six-cylinder one) the kilometer or so down the road to the local shop - every morning! - to purchase the sweet, slightly-caffeinated elixir of life without which my day could start only one way: badly.

Thankfully, that particular practice has been stopped. Shortly after I realised the insanity of what I was doing, I enjoyed a week or so where I would put Josh in the seat on the back of my bike and pedal off to the shop with Caitlin beside me each morning to buy a 750ml bottle which would be my ration for the day. As a family time it was great.

But once I'd started this train of thought I discovered the rails went a lot further than I'd realised. All these bottles... such waste... and so I started planning a little ahead and buying the two litre variety from the supermarket (without making any special trips to do so) and restricting my consumption to the same 750ml per day maximum. The larger bottles are more efficient in several respects including the amount of plastic used, the amount of transport fuel required (they stack more densely than the smaller cylindrical bottles) and of course their impact on my wallet!

Still, by the measuring stick of sustainability, it's much too much. I've tried going cold-turkey a few times in the past. Think I lasted a week once. It wasn't pretty. But I have to do something.

So... (Terry takes a deep breath)... here's my next step: starting tomorrow I'm going to reduce my typical Ice Break consumption by half. Unless I'm out of town, a single 375ml glass per day is my quota. When away from home a single 500ml bottle per day is all that's allowed.

Michelle will be sure to let me know if she sees me failing to adhere to this, and if she does I'll do the right thing and admit it online. That's unless withdrawal symptoms send me totally nuts first.

And just so you know I'm not the most extreme coffee-renouncing sustainability freak on the planet, check out this heart-wrenching post from the wife of the most extreme coffee-renouncing sustainability freak, "No Impact Man" Colin Beavan.

1 comment:

Michelle B said...

OMG as if you weren't depressed enough as it is!! Seriously babe, I applaud the sentiment, but oh its always SO fun when you renounce the ice break. Not sure I could make the leap to forgo my guilty pleasures though I suppose I could bake more, but then that brings on issues of 1. getting fat so much faster :) and 2. the whole using the oven and therefore high energy usage. Anyone for charcoal pit baking?