By Lisa Guerra, mother of three and co-author of the blog, “How Now Green Cow”
A few weeks ago my fifth grade son came home, sporting an energy badge that he had earned at school, along with an “energy detective” kit provided to him by our local electric company. The kit was filled with all sorts of great things to help kids and parents update the home to help save energy.
We pulled out CFLi (Compact Fluorescent Light) bulbs, “The Dirty Filter Alarm,” a digital thermometer for the hot water heater, a kitchen faucet aerator, and loads of energy saving tips. It was time for him to put his tree-hugging mother’s house to the ultimate test, and challenge me to a bit of “did you know” trivia to earn his “green” badge of honor. Little did he know that I had my own bit of “did you know” energy facts sitting in something as seemingly innocent as the gallon of milk in our refrigerator!
Being a bit of a detective myself, I like to find out the story behind my food. A few years ago, I was in the milk aisle and saw a new choice on the shelf. Being a blogger of environmental awareness, as well as a graphic designer, the well-designed label sporting the words “Prairieland Dairy from Firth, Nebraska” made my heart flutter. I knew I had to check them out. After buying a gallon, I called up and asked if I could get a tour of the farm for my blog, “How Now Green Cow” (how fitting, right?).
Not only did I get a hearty welcome, I got a full tour of the farm—everything from seeing a cow being born, to smelling the dirt, literally! I got a hands on education on how making environmentally conscious decisions can translate to great outcomes. In this case, that meant more comfortable cows, healthier milk, and cost savings.
Just like consumers, Prairieland Dairy is just one of many dairy farms across the country looking for ways to trim their utility bills. Prairieland Dairy became its own “energy detective,” and did a farm energy audit. They found they could save lots of energy and money by making some changes — doing things that the average Joe homeowner can do. Changes like using a low temperature detergent to clean their equipment, replacing lights when they go bad with more energy efficient fixtures, and running some of their most energy-intense systems during periods of lower demand.
We have all heard these ideas—switch out your light bulbs; turn down the temperature—but how much savings does this really translate to? For the lighting alone, Prairieland estimates that by replacing lights as they go bad to more energy-efficient fixtures they will save $7,000 a year and provide a better quality lighting in return. Better lighting means more comfortable cows and safer farming conditions for the workers, too.
Terry Landes, my farm tour guide that day, explained it best, ”In Nebraska we are pretty fortunate to have low food costs. But we are focused on streamlining our productions costs, not only because it’s good for the dairy farm, the cows and the environment, but because it’s good for consumers. Bottom-line, saving dollars on the dairy farm makes milk and dairy products more affordable to our consumers.
Doing good things for the environment is actually good for you. I love that I can teach my kids that lesson from my gallon of milk.