YES! But How? :: Organic Milk

If you're looking for practical ways to live sustainably, just ask us.


Which organic milk companies are really clean? What practices are guaranteed by the organic label, and what aren't?

USDA organic standards forbid all growth hormones and hormones that increase the production of milk, such as rBST or rBGH. The use of antibiotics, either for growth or illness, is also restricted. Organic milk cows are fed 100% vegetarian, organic diets. Access to pasture is a requirement for cows and chickens in the organic meat, dairy, and egg industry, though the length of time is not specified.

According to the Cornucopia Institute, “the vast majority of all name-brand organic dairy products are produced from milk from farms that follow accepted legal and ethical standards”. However, with large corporations taking over an increasing share of the organic milk market, tracking the origin of your milk is becoming more difficult. This is why in 2006, the Cornucopia Institute investigated dairy producers on site, and then rated major organic dairy producers according to their compliance with the USDA laws. The report found that “nearly 20% of the name-brands now available on grocery shelves scored a substandard rating.” Among these are Dean Foods, supplier of Horizon milk and Silk and White Wave “organic” soy products; and Aurora, which supplies Costco's “Kirkland Signature,” Safeway's “O,” Publix's “High Meadows,” Giant's “Nature's Promise,” and Wild Oats' organic milk. The rankings published by the Cornucopia Institute are available here. The best way to get fresh, organic milk is to buy from local family farms. A great farm locator is at

— Catherine Bailey


Do you have any suggestions for eating local during the winter months? It seems the only way to get produce is to rely on imported goods.

Actually, you don't have to rely on Chilean-grown fruit and California-raised vegetables in the winter. Even in colder northern climates, root vegetables and certain leafy greens can survive the winter.

Cookbooks by season or recipes from Nordic countries can give you good ideas of how to get creative with all the onions, leeks, and potatoes.

With a little planning ahead you can preserve and can your own, using fruit from your garden or produce bought locally at the height of the season.

Many farms keep apples, pears, and potatoes in storage through the winter, or they may continue to produce greenhouse-grown lettuces and other vegetables. Researching the offerings of nearby farms can help keep your winter diet local.

For some homegrown greens, try growing your own sprouts, a rich source of vitamins, fiber, protein, and digestion-boosting enzymes. Instructions for sprouting can be found at your library or online. (Be sure to read the safety tips, to avoid ugly bacteria). Or start an herb garden and season your meals through all four seasons. Most herbs will thrive indoors with the proper amount of sunlight.

— Margit Christenson


My old fridge seems to run for long periods of time, even when it has not been opened. I don't like the noise or the waste of electricity. What can I do?

Running on cycles that gobble up energy, refrigerators are gluttons among household appliances. But you can reduce the amount of money and power you're losing. Start by checking for the energy save. When pressed it turns off the mechanism heating the walls of your fridge to evaporate moisture. Especially in colder climates your room temperature will rarely get high enough to cause condensation on the fridge.

Then vacuum the condenser coils and vents behind or under your fridge. Clean coils release heat faster, resulting in shorter cooling cycles. Leaving a few inches between the back of your fridge and the wall also helps.

Next, check the placement of your fridge. Place the refrigerator away from dishwasher, stove, or direct sunlight, all of which raise the temperature and make your fridge work harder. Moving inward, check the gasket, or seal, around the refrigerator door. Is it leaking cold air? Shut a piece of paper in the door. If the paper slides out easily your gasket may be dirty and need a cleaning, or it may be shot and need to be replaced. Another test is to put a flashlight inside your fridge at night. Turn off the lights and see if any light is seeping out of cracks in the seal.

Finally, take a look inside your fridge and freezer. A full freezer is more efficient than an empty one, but snowdrifts of frost do not help. Freezers perform optimally when they have less than a quarter inch of built-up frost, so a defrosting may be useful. Also, check the internal temperatures. Refrigerators will do their job if kept between 38° and 42° F and freezers if kept between 10° and 15° F. Use your own thermometer for this reading—the dial inside the fridge rarely shows actual temperature.

How you store your food can also affect energy consumption. Foods and liquids should be stored in covered containers. Otherwise the moisture released will condense on the evaporator coils, and your fridge will run a longer cycle in order to evaporate this moisture. And don't underestimate a marker. By labeling leftovers, you can reduce the amount of time you spend standing in the cooling breeze of your overworked refrigerator.

— Margit Christenson


We asked our art director and most seasoned bike commuter for tips to keep you on your wheels and smiling through the winter:

  • Use hotel shower caps for covering the seat when the bike is parked.
  • Shimano makes an inexpensive generator hub. No more battery issues. Use them along with the little white blinkie lights in the front and as many red blinkie lights as you can find places for on the back.
  • Thermos makes an insulated thermos that fits into a bike water bottle cage. And Soma makes a tall coffee mug that attaches to your front handle bars with a mount from Cat Eye (in the evening you can replace it with a headlight). Saves on a paper cup, and you can take your latte to go.
  • Thin Windstopper ski gloves are great for biking. They're not waterproof, but they'll keep your hands warm and they dry quickly.
Send questions to YES! But How?, 284 Madrona Way NE, Suite 116, Bainbridge Island, WA 98110 or to [email protected]

Margit Christenson and Catherine Bailey wrote this YES! But How? as part of Liberate Your Space, the Winter 2008 issue of YES! Magazine.

Before YES! Margit Christenson was interning with the Lutheran World Federation in Jerusalem. This winter she wants to further localize her diet by figuring out how to make yogurt. Catherine Bailey has returned to college, where she plans to further explore her passion for activism.

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