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What’s Missing From Earth Day Celebrations? More Talk of Breastfeeding

Today, as over one billion people in over 192 countries celebrate Earth Day and everyone is thinking about ways to be more environmentally conscious. But few things are more “green” than breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is often framed as a personal decision, but it is most definitely also a planetary one.

Breastmilk is one of very few foods that are produced and delivered to the consumer without any pollution, unnecessary packaging or waste. It is the only food product that passes on health benefits to the consumer and has benefits for the producer.

No landfill is being filled to the brim due to breastfeeding–on the other hand, think of the millions of tons of tin used on formula cans, the plastic from formula bottles, the reams of paper for labels, not to mention the plastic, glass, rubber and silicon used to produce bottles and nipples. One study showed that plastic bottles, nipples and pacifiers take a whopping 200 to 450 years to break down! All of these products cause pollution in the manufacturing and distribution and create trash in the packaging, promotion and disposal.

Earth Day 2014′s theme is “Green Cities”. We hope increasing breastfeeding rates in these cities by making sure they are breastfeeding supportive environments in included in the ongoing efforts to protect planet earth.

“Earth Day is the most powerful force the environmental movement has ever known,” said Kathleen Rogers, president of Earth Day Network. “Millions of people will be permanently recruited into the environmental movement, joining the more than a billion people who already use this day to focus on the urgent need to stabilize global greenhouse gas emissions, fight climate change, live more eco-friendly lives and protect their children’s futures.”

What better way to truly protect children’s futures than by ensuring that infants have the most nutritious and the most eco-friendly food from birth–breast milk.

Earth Day and breastfeeding facts:

Every year in the US, over half a million women formula feed their babies from birth.  If just these mothers breastfed for a full year (with solids introduced after six months), these resources would be saved:

  • 2.5 million pounds of paper
  • 25 million pounds of metal
  • 27 million gallons of milk, requiring 465 million pounds of dairy feed to produce
  • 6 million gallons of oil for production, transportation and refrigeration
  • 135 million pounds of carbon dioxide produced by the use of those 6 million gallons of oil
Consider these other statistics: 
  • The 550 million containers of artificial milk substitutes  sold each year to U.S. bottle-fed babies alone, stacked end to end, would circle the earth one and a half times.
  • If every child in America were bottle-fed, almost 86,000 tons of tin would be needed to produced 550 million cans wrapped in 1,230 tons of paper labels for just one year’s worth of formula.

 

Sources:

Baumslag, N. and Michels, D., Milk, Money & Madness: The Culture and Politics of Breastfeeding. Bergin & Garvey, Westport, CT, 1995.

Correa, Wendy.  “Eco-Mama,” Mothering Magazine. Issue no. 95, July/Aug. 1999.

http://www.ewg.org/reports/infantformula

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