No-Dairy February

swiss supermarket yoghurt sectionThis year, we set ourselves three month long challenges- the first of which was “no dairy February”.

In the West, food makes up the biggest part of the average carbon footprint. Over the last few years my husband and I have been trying to adapt our diet to a more low carbon one. We have greatly reduced our red meat consumption, which is now almost entirely limited to locally sourced, wild venison. The next biggest culprit for carbon emissions in the average diet is dairy. There is about a kilogramme of carbon released into the atmosphere for every litre of milk we consume. For cheese it’s over a kilogramme of carbon for every 100grammes. Several years ago we switched from having cereal for breakfast to toast with margarine, in an attempt to reduce the amount of milk and butter that we bought. But cheese, cream, butter and yoghurt were still a big part of our diet. So for this February we decided to see whether we could go without.

Fortuitously, Waitrose happened to be doing an offer on Almond milk that month so we did enjoy some milk equivalents and ironically went back to eating cereal for breakfast. We avoided soya as that can be as ethically dubious as milk. My staple lunch had been cheese on toast but for February I changed to vegetable soup. I discovered that risotto still tasted fine if you left out the cheese and cream, and that the best dark chocolate is dairy free. But we also found that most biscuits and baking were off the menu.

We did both have a couple of minor accidental lapses, and one mutually agreed one when a friend took us out to dinner and we felt it would be rude to be fussy (and it was a very nice restaurant). But other than that we lasted the course. Friends were quick to point out that we had chosen the shortest month.

The biggest challenge for me was drinking black tea and coffee. My vegan sister-in-law told me that I would probably learn to love it, and never want to go back to white coffee. But it was what I missed most, and would have been the first thing back on my menu had it not been for the fact that we woke up on March the first in a remote bothy in the highlands, a day’s walk from the nearest shops, and no, we hadn’t carried in a pint of milk. We had however carried in a Camembert that our friends had given us, and I am also eternally grateful to the person who left the Boost chocolate bar on which I broke my dairy fast.

Now it’s March and I’m back on white coffee and cheese, but we are using less, and we have bought more milk alternatives to eat with cereal. Also with the first challenge month over I feel ready to face the next one set for May (watch this space for the next corny rhyming challenge).

Guest blog by Ruth

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