Ben and Jerry’s is a name that has become so ubiquitous that a phrase like, “Hey, I’m gonna have Ben and Jerry’s,” needs no further explanation. Everyone knows that you’re gonna have some ice cream that’s likely “Cherry’s Garcia,” “Phish Food” or “Wavy Gravy” flavor.
When you think about the fact that “Wavy Gravy” is actually the name of a guy, it seems a little less appetizing.
If some of those names illicit a hippy vibe, it was intentional. Founders Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield have always tried to do things a bit differently since their company’s birth in 1977, in Burlington, Vermont. It’s little wonder that their product lends itself to their former “hippy” days as inspiration. Often throwing their name behind social justice issues, the company turned their attention to climate change as early as 2002, when they launched a carbon offset program for their Vermont facilities and then partnered with the Dave Matthews Band in 2007, to fund a global advocacy campaign for climate change with the flavor, “One Sweet Whirled.”
Now, in partnership with the online activism platform Avaaz, the company is trying to raise awareness for climate change once again with the introduction of their new flavor, “Save Our Swirled” and a promotional tour complete with Teslas and free scoops of ice cream.
This guy. This guy is stoked.
According to their site, the intention is to call upon leaders of developed nations along with the United Nations to take action for climate change at the upcoming Paris summit. Their goal aligns with the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and calls for the need to shift toward 100 percent clean energy by 2050. Avaaz wants to take it even a step further and call for the total elimination of all carbon pollution within the next 85 years.
Here’s where the disconnect comes in. In order to completely eliminate carbon emissions from the globe, we have to tackle industries that contribute to it. If you wanted to start with with, say, the industries that are the largest contributors of global greenhouse gas emissions, the meat and dairy industry would be chief among them. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that livestock production is responsible for 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, while other organizations like the Worldwatch Institute have estimated it could be as much as 51 percent, with dairy specifically contributing about 4 percent of all anthropogenic GHGs alone.
You mean, we can’t be both part of the solution and part of the problem? Wow, what a buzzkill.
There are five main gases that make up the soup that’s currently warming our rock, with carbon dioxide being a pretty problematic one and methane coming in as even worse. Methane is able to trap up to 100 times more heat into the atmosphere than carbon can. It also makes up the lion’s share of greenhouse gasses produced by diary cows, coming in at a whopping 52 percent.
What’s more, dairy is incredibly water intensive to produce. One fourth of the global water footprint (2422 billion cubic meters) is spent on animal agriculture, with dairy production making up 19 percent of that. Speaking of ice cream specifically, it requires 42 gallons of water just to produce one scoop. Just for comparison sakes, it only takes nine gallons for a glass of soy milk.
Probably not a great plan with unprecedented droughts going on.
Which leads us back to Ben, Jerry and ice cream as a vehicle for climate change awareness. Let’s break down the good part of all this – the company (a wholly owned subsidiary of Unilever) wanted to raise awareness for this mammoth issue with this new ice cream flavor, and they obviously have. We’re talking about it aren’t we? Plus, their collaboration with Avaaz has brought widespread traffic to a petition that will call upon world leaders to transition to clean energy. Dairy or not, awareness is a positive thing in the fight against climate change and global calls to action can’t hurt either.
But, at the end of the day, you can’t produce an unsustainable product in order to spread the message of sustainability. It’s not only counterproductive, but it also produces an even larger disconnect than the one that currently exists, and believe us, that disconnect is already Grand Canyon sized. It’s the equivalent of spanking a child while yelling, “no hitting!”
Oooohh, so close.
Had Ben and Jerry’s wanted to make a profound statement about sustainability and the need to eliminate carbon emissions completely in the next 85 years, their new offering should have ditched the dairy. Dairy-free ice cream is only growing in popularity and for a company that has already formulated offerings made from yogurt and even some sorbets in order to meet demand for full fat alternatives, starting a line of completely animal-product independent offerings would reach out to a widening consumer base while truly sending the message that you’re on board with fighting climate change.
We all have the power to make a huge difference for the planet with our food choices by simply reducing our consumption of meat and animal products – plus with thousands (5,000+ to be exact) of phenomenal plant-based recipes to choose from right here, it’s never been easier or more delicious to do so. Join our #EatForThePlanet movement and give it a try!
Graphic by Elizabeth Lee
Lead image source: PSFK