Ice cream, I have found, makes a lot of people happy. Unfortunately, ice cream makes for one very discontent customer: Mother Nature. To assess ice cream’s impact on the environment, you must consider 3 things about its creation. Firstly, that ice cream is made with palm oil, and palm oil production notably contributes to the deforestation of Indonesia and Malaysia, resulting in mass habitat loss for already endangered species. Secondly, that ice cream packaging is rarely local, and instead requires the transportation of tubs across great stretches of land, adding to CO2 emissions. And lastly, that dairy production harms the environment astronomically every day, as one cow produces between 250 and 500 liters of methane gas daily, and requires around 4,781 gallons of water for its daily food needs. One cow. And there are an estimated 9 million dairy cows in the U.S. Now you might be thinking that a bowl of ice cream looks more like the entire logging industry strapped to a nuclear bomb, right? Luckily for us and the planet, there is hope yet! All we must do is take a nice, close look at these 3 facts and create eco-friendly alternatives to each step!
To begin, palm oil is what gives ice cream its distinctly ice cream texture; that smooth, creamy pint of goodness is thanks to plants most commonly found in Indonesia and Malaysia. But clearing rainforests in these countries to make way for our beloved palm oil releases greenhouse gases and steals habitats from animals like tigers, orangutans, rhinos and more. World Wildlife Fund offered a wise solution to such dangers by founding the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil in 2004, supplying better choices in palm oil and creating standards that preserve the planet. By abiding by WWF’s regulations, we may take one step closer to eco-friendly ice cream production.
Next, the harmful impact of ice cream packaging can be lessened through local efforts to package pints; the investment in local injection molding machines saves thousands of “food miles” each year that transported packaging demands. Mackie’s of Scotland uses their own molding machine, and can proudly state that their tubs now only travel 200 meters from the molding room, saving the previous 50,000 yearly food miles!
Finally, the dairy issue. Who knew cows were walking serial killers of the earth? A much safer alternative to the draining production of dairy lies with the ingredients lying around in your kitchen. Ice cream can be made with coconut milk, avocados, bananas, almond milk, cashews, soy milk and many more ingredients you never would have considered in place of the milk from our moon-hopping, earth-destroying friend! The drawback to these resources would be the CO2 emissions from transportation; such an issue may be bypassed by buying local produce whenever possible.
Overall, through careful consideration of ice cream’s effect on the planet, we may all reach a point where enjoying a scoop of that creamy deliciousness is no guilt, and all pleasure – for us, and the Earth!