The Sanborn Sun February - May 2000
For A Healthy Planet
Article By Amy L.
Web Site By Thomas W.

     What does yogurt have to do with the environment?  That depends on whom you ask. On February 24, 2000 we, three students from Sanborn Regional High School, accompanied by our journalism teacher, traveled to Stonyfield Farm, a yogurt factory located in Londonderry, NH. Our goal was to discover what the people at Stonyfield were doing for the environment.

     Stonyfield Farm started from very modest beginnings.  They began making yogurt in 1983 as a project of the Samuel Rural Education Center in Wilton, NH; their goal was to bring new life into the New England dairy industry and to help small farming families.  Their growth was revolutionary.

     From the start they thought they could make a positive environmental impact.  After only five years, they grew too large for a farmhouse, which had only eleven Jersey cows.  They then moved to a new location where they’ve spent ten years.  They are still growing.   In 1997 they added 18,000 square feet, and then in 2000, they cut the ribbon for 15,000 new square feet.  They finally bought the whole office building that they were previously renting. They have a visitor’s center that has been running for eight years, which is where we began our tour.

     We had a lot of questions about yogurt, so we decided to start off getting some answers early on in the trip with our guide Carol Chatman.  Our first question had to do with what makes the yogurt so thick?  Chatman said, "That as the milk sits, the bacteria in the milk multiply and eat the milk sugar.  That is what makes it so thick.  One cup of yogurt has 68% milk sugar.  When the yogurt comes through and is all boxed, it still isn't ready to be shipped out, because it isn't thick enough.  It must first sit in cold refrigerators until it gets thick. Then it is shipped off, ready to be eaten."

     The most important question that we all want to know is how much yogurt is actually made by the machines?  "The machines run twelve to sixteen hours a day, and make 240 eight-ounce cups a minute.  That is between 172,800 and 230,400 cups a day!  That is a lot of yogurt!" Chatman told us.

     How much money does Stonyfield make every year?  If it isn't enough that they made $40,000,000 last year, that number is growing rapidly and expected to skyrocket this year!

     While at Stonyfield we took a tour to find out a little more about how the yogurt was made.  We saw the quality control area, where we watched the enthusiastic workers taste testing a new flavor, which will soon be reaching the markets.  We saw where the milk truck pulls in with fresh milk each morning.  Chatman explained, "Before the milk is pumped out of the truck, it is taken into the laboratory and tested for various things, including the pH level.  They also taste the milk to make sure it tastes okay.  After about twenty minutes of testing, the milk is approved, and pumped into the large tanks waiting to start the yogurt making process.  Milk usually is not rejected from the factory; almost all the shipments are approved. They always check to make sure that they can make the best quality yogurt." Quality control is an important part in the yogurt making process.

      According to Chatman, "They only use milk from cows that have not been injected with the Bovine growth hormone.  Most of their milk comes from St. Albens, Vermont.  The Bovine growth hormone is a FDA approved hormone, which is injected into some cows to make them produce more milk.  The problem with the hormone is that it is not widely tested.  Stonyfield Farm wants to only use the purest, most natural milk in their yogurt, so they have taken a stand against the using the hormone."

     There are a number of things that Stonyfield Farm is doing to help the environment.  They produce several organic products.  The ingredients are grown in such a way as to simulate the way Mother Nature grows them, by recycling nutrients, and not using toxic chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

     Stonyfield Farm has also been recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency's Waste Wise Program.  They achieve this by recycling about 70% of their waste, including cardboard, metal, paper, plastic, and wood (used in pallets).  Chatman said, "One very unique way that Stonyfield Farm gets rid of ‘waste’, and helps local farmers is by giving fruit waste, which drips off machines that hold up to 2,000 pounds of fruit, to local farmers for free, to feed their pigs."

     If this isn't enough, Stonyfield Farms also invests money into projects that absorb carbon monoxide. Stonyfield Farm also has installed a number of energy efficient devices to cut down on energy use.  Some examples are energy efficient lighting and special hot water heating recovery systems that reuse the heat.  They have also decreased resource use in their packaging and air emissions.  Stonyfield Farm may be a growing business, but they are sure cutting back on pollution.

       They have a unique advertising campaign to help the planet.  They use the covers of their yogurt as "billboards" to promote a healthy environment. They have a commitment to give 10% of their profits to organizations that help the environment.   They have started and maintain the "have a cow" program in which people adopt a cow in order to expose people to life on a modern day farm.

       They have started a program in which consumers send back their yogurt cups to the factory to be recycled into ordinary household objects.  They have published a book titled Reversing Global Warming: Offsetting Carbon Dioxide Emissions, which is aimed towards helping businesses, decrease the negative impact they have on the environment.

      Last but not least, Stonyfield Farm maintains a statement of rigorous goals to protect the environment, including a deadline to "convert to renewable energy sources 50% of our facility energy use by 2002."  Stonyfield Farm concludes their impressive environmental statement saying, "If a healthy planet isn't our business, whose business is it?"

      Not only does Stonyfield Farm make great tasting yogurt; they make healthy yogurt, happy employees, happy consumers, and a happy environment.  That is a big accomplishment for such a little cup of yogurt!