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Photo contributed by Elizabeth Bounds / In addition to delivering milk alternatives, Other Milk features a bottle return program to help cut down on waste.

Elizabeth Bounds is a businesswoman on a mission: to deliver healthy milk alternatives to Chattanoogans with as little impact on the environment as possible.

Enter: Other Milk, her soon-to-launch, subscription-based milk service that harkens back to the days of milkmen — but with a modern twist.

Bounds was born lactose intolerant. Over the years, she tried various alternative milk products, trying to find one that didn't have unnecessary additives in it. But nothing satisfied her, especially as she was trying to live a cleaner and more eco-conscious lifestyle, choosing healthy foods with low waste.

Then, one night, laying in bed, it hit her: Does a company exist for Chattanoogans where they can have alternative milk delivered directly to them? Turns out, there wasn't one, so she decided to make it herself.

Her company, Other Milk, is now planning an early spring launch at Main Street Farmers Market, along with a website launch and a few pop-up ventures. The company is a subscription-based service that produces glass-bottled milk alternatives, such as oat milk and chocolate pecan milk, and delivers it to locals' doorsteps.

"In traditional grocery stores or retail models, you set the product out, but you don't actually know that it will move. So grocery stores end up with an inordinate amount of food waste, and it's really heartbreaking to me to see all of the time and energy and resources that they put into producing food for it to just be thrown out. Having a subscription model allows me to curb waste," says Bounds, explaining that she can plan more easily by knowing on a weekly basis what customers are ordering. It helps to cut down on the potential for overproduction, which in turn, cuts down on waste. "I'm trying to take a holistic approach with the business."

She hopes that the glass bottling, along with a bottle return program built into the business model, will help her close the production-waste and packaging-waste gaps. And she plans on having low-emission deliveries and using locally sourced products, such as Georgia pecans and cacao from Chattanooga's Belle Chocolates.

Bounds feels that a locally based subscription model is the way of the future.

"I think that as we evolve and as our food systems evolve, we're going to end up back in a place of eating out of our backyards and eating locally and supporting local food systems," she says.

But what about the product itself? What makes milk alternatives healthier than cow's milk?

"It leaves less inflammation in your body to not be consuming dairy," says Bounds, adding that it's important to know what you're buying at the grocery store, because a lot of alternative milk products have gums, fillers and other ingredients in them that are not healthy to be consuming regularly.

"It was really important to me that the product that I produced was something that I would choose and consume," she says.

In the beginning, she will produce two flavors, oat milk and chocolate pecan, each having only up to five ingredients. The oat milk contains oats, water, maple syrup and sea salt and the chocolate pecan, pecans, water, cacao, maple syrup and sea salt. Both are low in sugar.

By next year Bounds hopes to expand her delivery program to Chattanoogans beyond its 5-mile radius of downtown. Ultimately, she wants her product to be a kitchen staple for locals. Beyond that, Bounds hopes to develop seasonal milks and nut butters, as well as a barista product so that Other Milk can also be found in coffee shops in the area.

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