Being that it is a requirement of living, it is likely that you have seen a grocery store in your lifetime. (If not, congrats to you for this incredible feat in modern society).  Among the common items of bread, eggs, and cheese that you would normally find in the grocery store is the now ubiquitous Greek Yogurt section. Popular for being rich in protein, and its smooth texture, Greek yogurt has taken off as an industry within the past five years. In fact, “…Yogurt production in New York…has tripled between 2007 and 2013.”[1] What yogurt companies and John Stamos have not told you however are the consequences the production of their products have had on the environment.

Unlike traditional yogurt, the Greek variety, “…Yields huge quantities of acid whey, a byproduct that kills aquatic life during decomposition.” In the production cycle, acid whey (which is common component in the making of inexpensive butters and creams) is one of the byproducts that separates from milk after it has been curdled.[2] Yet, because of the aforementioned boom in production, yogurt companies are left with a tremendous amount of waste that cumulatively can greatly impact our oceans, rivers, and streams. Acid whey naturally takes away oxygen from water which has the effect of progressively killing any aquatic life in the area. For example, after an Ohio cheese factory accidentally spilled acid whey into nearby Sandy Creek, close to 5,400 fish were killing along the 1.5 mile river.[3] These figures are pretty extraordinary, but can only provide a glimpse into the potential environmental ramifications if a larger scaled spill were to happen.

Currently, for every three or four ounces of milk, Chobani and other companies can produce only one ounce of creamy Greek yogurt. The rest becomes acid whey.”[4] So what can we do to reverse this trend? According to The Verge and The Modern Farmer several sustainable options are currently being explored. The most promising idea in use is located at a farm in Scipio Center, N.Y where they have successfully turned acid whey into methane, which then is converted into usable electricity. In a simplified and less disgusting version of the process, acid whey and manure are combined in tanks with heat for approximately 20 days. Here the cultures in acid whey break down the contents of the mixture which, in this case, releases methane embedded within the manure where the gas is used as a raw material for electrical generators which power the farm.

Yet, the anaerobic digesters which are required tools for the New York farm require millions in capital investment and are not likely to be available to the local farmer. As a result, we need to cultivate more practical ideas to meet this growing challenge which faces our environment and aquatic life. Here at LGBG we want to empower you with this information to go out and make a difference. Together lets collaborate and inspire to create a solution so that we can all live green, and be green.

The key to green living and sustainability most often lies with grass roots efforts by dedicated individuals with personal vested interests at stake. A situation such as this gave birth to the Shell Recycling Alliance. This group consists of members of the local oyster shucking community with family legacies of care and commitment to the Chesapeake Bay. They recognized that the tons of oyster shells discarded at events where they shucked could serve a useful purpose, and they got together to do something about it.

Oyster shell is a limited natural resource that provides a habitat for new oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Horn Point Hatchery uses it for its oyster setting process. This program spawns oysters taken from the wild, creating larvae or spat, which is released into large tanks with cages of oyster shells to set. The newly spawned oysters are fed algae and upon reaching maturity, are returned to the Bay. The Shell Recycling Alliance (SRA) has teamed up with area seafood restaurants throughout Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Delaware to save oyster shells, which are collected and delivered to the hatchery to be used for setting to replenish the bay oyster population. To date, the SRA has provided around 75,000 bushels of reclaimed oyster shells to the program.

In addition to being a food attraction, oysters play a major role in the health and survival of the Chesapeake Bay, as the filtering capacity of the entire oyster reef community is vital to the Bay’s water quality. By virtue of its algae consumption, an oyster filters water at a rate of up to approximately two gallons an hour. This filtration clarifies the water, allowing bay grasses to receive more sunlight and become more plentiful. As a result, oxygen levels in the water increase, which in turn, leads to reduced wave energy and shoreline loss. The end product is a healthy habitat for aquatic life.

Thanks to the actions of concerned people committed to the protection of our waters, oyster replenishment programs now operate not only in the Mid-Atlantic States, but also up and down the east coast. A small green movement has led to a large green revolution. A great way to get involved is to support the restaurants that participate in this program. A list of participating businesses can be found at Let’s live green, be green.

Courtesy of