It’s not often that an old tradition returns. Those “hipsters” who don handlebar mustaches and suspenders in attempts to bring back a bygone era have their efforts limited by a modern perspective and, as a result, come off as disingenuous. While it’s common to gripe about hipsters, genuine attempts to revive the past in its entirety are not well advised. For example, it’s uncommon to want to give another chance to the penny farthing bicycle, cars without seatbelts, or cocaine in cough medicine. That being said, it is undeniable that there are lessons to be learned from the past about how to make the future sustainable. In that regard, recently a tradition has begun to work its way back into the lives of American consumers that can be recognized by the distinctive clink of glass bottles.
After being phased out of relevance in the 1970’s due to refrigeration, supermarkets offering cheaper alternatives, and an ever-expanding suburban sprawl, milk delivery has made a comeback. This is due, in part, to COVID-19, when many people, confined in their homes, started to yearn for the comfortable sound of the milkman’s knock on their door. What’s old becomes new again as the generations-old method of milk pickup and delivery seems tailored for a contactless age. Dairies all over the United States have taken this time as an opportunity to move their operations online, streamlining service and eliminating ambiguity. While these operations are not massive, with many dairies handling all their facets, customers do not seem to mind. In fact, to many, the small supply chains are a benefit. The pandemic shattered many people’s sense of community. Milk delivery, however trivial it sounds, affords those who participate an opportunity to be a part of something local, sustainable, and larger than themselves.
Since milk delivery is a practice that predates the widespread proliferation of plastic, those that have revived the service have reverted to traditional methods with no disposable containers involved. Glass bottles of fresh milk and cream are dropped off in an insulated box outside of the customer’s home. The ones used the previous week sit waiting, ready for pickup. The milkman/woman/person drops off the fresh milk, takes the old bottles and places them in the back of the delivery truck to return to the dairy. When they are returned, the bottles are cleaned and refilled to prepare for delivery. Locally sourced, sustainable, and convenient, milk delivery presents itself as an “udderly” green alternative to a supermarket-centric model of grocery shopping.
There is no denying that there is waste involved in this process. Bottles break, trucks and vans still run on gas, and the environmental impact of cow farming is well documented and not to be understated. However, the benefits of a circular economy, even a localized one, should not be written off. By following this link, you can see your local dairies and distributors and inquire about the services they provide to their communities. Taking the techniques of yesterday to create a better today and a brighter tomorrow, milk delivery is the faster and greener way to get your dairy fix.