Why breastfeeding is the best choice for the environment

Breastfeeding has less  impact on the environment than artificial formula, not to mention fewer health risks for mother and child.

Production of artificial formula from cow’s milk

The majority of artificial formulae are based on cows’ milk. The dairy industry is a major user of resources such as water, energy, feed (including grain) and land and a producer of pollutants that contribute to environmental damage.

Dairy cattle produce methane as a by-product of the fermentation of their manure. A typical cow burps 280 litres of methane each day – the result of microbial digestion of fodder in its stomach (1). Methane and other fermentation by-products are powerful greenhouse gases. Methane has 23 times the Global Warming Potential (GWP) of carbon dioxide (2).
The processing involved in the conversion of milk to powdered formula requires the use of water, energy and resources, while generating waste and pollutants.

Sale of artificial formula

Infant formula packaging across its production stages uses paper, cardboard, aluminium, plastic, steel and tin, which in turn, require energy to produce.
Artificial formula is a heavily traded product worldwide and thus contributes to food miles. Much of Australia’s domestic consumption is imported from New Zealand, France, Ireland and Germany, while Australia produces 13,000 tonnes of artificial formulae for export (3). Additionally, raw ingredients may be exported for production of artificial formula off-shore.

Consumption of artificial formula

Powdered artificial formulae must be reconstituted prior to consumption, and this process involves energy associated with boiling and cooling water, as well as washing and sterilising bottles.
There is also energy associated with the manufacture of baby bottles and teats and the impacts of their disposal should be considered.

Health impacts of artificial formula

Artificial feeding results in higher rates of medical treatment of infants, including hospitalisation. Based on data generated in the Australian Capital Territory, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life could save between $60–120 million in Australian hospital costs for treatments of infants suffering illnesses that are associated with early weaning (4).

Environmental impacts of breastfeeding

There are some positive and negative environmental impacts associated with breastfeeding:

Environmental costs are associated with the increased food intake of breastfeeding women during lactation. According to the Nutrient Reference Values for Australian and New Zealand (5), there is an increased requirement for water, energy and most vitamins and minerals during lactation, above the mother’s usual requirements.
Data regarding the proportion of breastfeeding mothers who express breastmilk is not available, although some evidence suggests that this is becoming more common (6). Activities associated with expressing breastmilk that may have an environmental impact include operation of an electric breast pump (if used), refrigeration/freezing of expressed breast milk, warming of stored breast milk, manufacture, disposal, washing and sterilising of baby bottles and the necessary equipment, and its eventual disposal.
An environmental benefit of breastfeeding is that it prevents more births worldwide than all other forms of contraception put together and consequently decreases consumption of feminine hygiene products used during menstruation (7).

In conclusion, although breastfeeding does have environmental impacts, use of artificial formula is by far the worse choice in environmental terms. Attention should also be paid to the significant additional health costs related to the use of artificial formula and the subsequent environmental costs associated with hospital treatment.

The Eco-friendly Food Challenge Debrief

The aim of this blog is to give you the opportunity to share and reflect on the main things you have learned during the challenge and what your plans are for the future.

Apart from just being more aware of the impact of my food choices, the biggest change to my behaviour from this challenge is compacting the rubbish I am recycling. I guess I have been so concerned about what I can recycle, it never occured to me that crushing cans and squishing plastic containers make the whole transport of recycled materials more efficient. I’m finding it fun too and I don’t have to empty my kitchen bin as often!

The biggest impact has definitely been a huge decrease in our landfill waste at home. We’ve always recycled the obvious things, but the challenge has really opened my eyes to the extent of waste that can be recycled. In fact, since week 2 of the challenge, we haven’t taken the wheelie bin out, because there’s been virtually nothing in it! I really enjoyed the challenge in week 3 too. Another big eye-opener.

I am promoting a natural antimicrobial I have developed as a way to both, improve food safety AND reduce food waste. Herbal-Active is made from culinary herb extracts and is a natural alternative to chemical preservatives in a raft of applications.

I have some information on it but in essence, using it as a dipping solution kills food pathogens and food spoilage organisms and extends shelf life of fresh produce accordingly. Most fruits and vegetables can then do better than 2 to 10 times the un-dipped controls. Additionally, the nutritional value of the foods are maintained as molds and fungi are not consuming the free sugars and other carbs in the foods.

I have always been a coupon user since back in the early 1970 s. I try on a daily basis to save money in every aspect of our lives. From groceries to gas, trips, and daily needs. I sign up for all the remindered coupon sites, match couponing sites and visit other sites for free samples such as All You! I go to the extreme to collect as many Sunday Newspapers that I can for all the coupons inside. I have family, friends and coworkers bring in their coupons from their papers. I go to McDonalds on Sunday mornings as they offer free Newspaper to customers and guess what is inside more coupon. Yes! Never enough coupons, I then go on line daily and print out as many coupons as I now I will use with in the expiration dates. If coupons go by I mail them overseas to the troops as they can use expired coupons up to 6 months past the date. I have also incorporated my daughter and granddaughter into helping me cut coupons, print out coupons and save money using coupons. It has become so much family fun! Thank you for the opportunity to brag about couponing. Lori Baird