What Does Sustainability Mean?
For generations, dairy farmers have been stewards of the land. They have viewed taking care of the environment as an integral part of producing fresh, wholesome, and nutritious dairy products. Caring for the land, protecting resources, and raising healthy animals has always been an inherent part of their livelihood. It makes good sense that if you take care of and respect your resources, your resources will continue to deliver.
The term “sustainability” has come to mean many different things. It can elicit emotion, incite passion, and inspire change. The most popular definitions embody ideals of stewardship, the protection of natural resources, and application of the golden rule as it applies to our earth and protecting its longevity for future generations (treat the earth/future generations as you would like them to treat you).
In 2007, representatives from all sectors of the dairy industry (academia, government, NGO’s dairy farmers, dairy businesses…) came together to launch the U.S. Dairy Sustainability Commitment and pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for fluid milk by 25% by the year 2020. This group also worked to define “sustainability” for dairy. Marrying dairy farmers’ long-standing tradition of environmental stewardship with the greater industry’s vision for the future, they came up with:
Sustainability Means: Providing consumers with the nutritious dairy products they want in a way that makes the industry, people and the earth economically, environmentally and socially better – now and for future generations.
Ask a farmer why he/she does it – the hard work, the endless hours, the economic ups and downs – and you will likely get a passionate response, “because I love working with the land and caring for the animals.” Sustainability is what dairy farmers do, it is their passion, and it is their commitment to a healthier future.