Recently we have seen high profile public campaigns seeking to persuade those in office to take action to address climate change. As individuals we regularly feel disempowered. But sometimes there are some politically difficult problems that individuals can get on with solving, leading by example.

As part of the Plastic Free Letchworth team we have been talking to local schools about switching from milk in cartons with straws to bottles of milk and reusable beakers. Cool Milk, our local school milk provider, are implementing solutions that will reduce the overall volume of plastic waste associated with school milk. Some schools have taken the plunge and made the change, and we applaud them for doing this, others are grappling with the extra burden the proposed alternatives place on the school.

School milk schemes are available in all primary schools. The milk is free for under 5s, otherwise the subsidised local price is 22p for a 1/3 pint of milk (66p a pint). A pint of milk, delivered to the door, in a glass bottle costs 75p from the local dairy. From the local supermarket the additional cost of buying a 4 pint bottle of milk instead of a 2 pint bottle is 30p, so to provide a childrens’ milk portion at home could cost parents as little as 5p. So despite the subsidy, parents and carers who are paying for school milk would be financially better off giving their children a glass of milk. This would have the added advantages that they would know if it had been drunk and the milk could be delivered in a more enjoyable form if necessary. Given school milk is subsidised, if parents and carers opted their children out of the school milk scheme the government would also make a saving, a saving that could perhaps go into providing breakfast clubs, including some milk, for children most in need of them.

From time to time debates occur on whether school milk is still nutritionally necessary. The topic becomes a political football – with governments who raise the idea of removing the scheme being labelled as Milk Snatchers. It’s hard to see any politician making the case again for removing school milk. However, parents and carers are already in charge of how much milk their children get – they choose to opt in to the school milk scheme. What we would like parents and carers to think about is, where this milk should be delivered to their child. If it’s delivered at home this would be a big step forward in reducing single-use plastic and would reduce the carbon footprint associated with young children. So why not make this change and tell your friends? Help show that climate change can be tackled by individuals working together as well as top down from government.

Transition Town Letchworth, delivers community projects, including Plastic Free Letchworth, to support more sustainable lives.


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