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Don’t Meltdown With Summer's End, Eat Sustainable Ice Cream!

Product of the Week: Ice Cream

Why do I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream?!?

Maybe because it melts in the sun or because it’s so delicious that Americans typically eat 22 pounds of ice cream per year. Whether it’s in a sundae or on a cone (which was popularized by a Syrian waffle maker at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair), we can’t get enough of it! Heck, 1 in 5 Americans share their ice cream with their pets – that’s one way to finish a scoop in 50 licks…

We also scream in part, because there are so many issues in your dessert that the sustainability challenges makes you want to hide under the covers with your favorite pint and pretend the challenges don’t exist.

What complex issues are you talking about?

Well, ice cream comes in so many different flavors that all the different ingredients are grown in different ways, some more sustainable than others. The key ingredients in almost all ice creams are: milk or cream, sugar (usually from sugarcane), chocolate (or cocoa), vanilla, and a bunch of other things some of which you and I don’t even recognize!

What are the issues in the main ingredients?

  • Milk – it’s more than a temporary mustache, 10.3% of all milk is used for ice cream.

  • Where to begin? Well the dairy farmers aren’t always paid enough to cover their operation costs, let alone live, so small farmers need family jobs off the farm. That stinks!

  • Cows aren’t always treated that well, either, so that stinks, too. Plus hormones can be given to cows that produce milk for ice cream – gross.

  • Oh, and the cows eat a lot of food and create a lot of manure, which, when poorly managed contributes to climate change and water pollution, while harming nature!

  • Sugar – Not just a cavity creator.

  • Too often the cane sugar is grown in a way that doesn’t protect human rights, freshwater resources, the climate, and nature.

  • Cocoa – it’s from a tree and mostly grown in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire!

  • Cocoa farming is a tough job with little return. Most farmers barely make enough to survive, let alone encourage their kids to take over the farm. Speaking of kids, there has been a high incidence of child labor in cocoa farming in the past, but it’s coming down thanks to industry efforts and certification programs.

  • Palm oil – it’s in a lot of ice cream to do various things, and is also a leading cause of deforestation, wildlife loss, and human rights violations!

  • Vanilla – this edible orchid is mostly grown in Madagascar and Indonesia!

  • The vanilla, in some of these places can too often be produced with child labor and with environmental impacts.

That’s a lot to think about for such a simple pleasure. What can we do?

Easy, scream less, buy sustainable brands:


  • Ben & Jerry’s


  • Breyer’s (not perfect but it uses certified sustainable vanilla, more sustainable sugar and palm oil, and hormone free milk) preferred over

  • Dreyer’s (only supporting sustainable palm oil)

  • Haagen- Dazs (only sustainable palm oil)


  • Blue Bell,

  • Blue Bunny

  • Turkey Hill

  • Every store brand!

So buy sustainably, and share a scoop life’s sustainable sundaes!

Read more to understand more about your ice cream:

Brands doing well:

  • http://www.sustainablebrands.com/news_and_views/supply_chain/caitlin_kauffman/unilever_ice_cream_brands_now_guilt-free_indulgence_tha


  • http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/04/business/energy-environment/how-growth-in-dairy-is-affecting-the-environment.html?_r=0

  • http://e360.yale.edu/feature/as_dairy_farms_grow_bigger_new_concerns_about_pollution/2768/

  • http://www.nationaldairyfarm.com/

  • http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/farm/hsus-the-welfare-of-cows-in-the-dairy-industry.pdf


  • https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/vanilla-farming-rural-future-risk-synthetic

  • http://www.environmentalleader.com/2015/02/11/breyers-to-source-100-sustainable-vanilla/