By Karina | June 23, 2008
It’s summertime around here, and I don’t know about y’all, but I love to eat ice cream, and summer is the best excuse there is to eat it. I love it so much that I don’t permit myself to keep a container of it in the freezer, because I will for sure eat the entire carton of ice cream at embarrassingly fast speeds. (Though this study states that the average consumption of ice cream in the US is 1.2 quarts PER WEEK per person!) If you try to think about ice cream too much, it’s not a very sustainable food. It’s made from milk, which is generally not organically farmed. Then the milk is transported to a processing facility where the ice cream is made. It must be frozen, which requires an energy input, and then transported – still frozen – all around the world (slight hyperbole but you get the point!). So I started to think about how I could be a little more sustainable when I eat ice cream, and I decided the best decision I can make is to eat locally-made ice cream and to walk there when I want a cone.
So this year I’ve been walking down to the locally-owned ice cream shop for a cone a couple of times a week. Ice Cream Charlie’s is a quick walk from my apartment and is located ironically next to my gym. By walking there I save on transportation costs of myself or of the ice cream. They make the ice cream locally, so it doesn’t have to be kept cold as it’s transported across the country. And it’s really really good, and I feel virtuous because I’ve walked there!
Some ice cream makers are aware of the environmental impact of their products: for example Ben & Jerry’s are often recognized for their commitment to sustainability, and they constantly strive to do better by the environment. In Seattle apparently there is an upsurge of local artesian ice cream shops – some of which are focused on local and organic ingredients. But I don’t live in Seattle, and Ben & Jerry’s, as delicious as it is, is still transported to my grocery store from Vermont. Think of the food miles!
There is a big chain ice cream shop down the block – also within walking distance – but chain stores also have the added impact of having to use branded paper goods and ingredients, which must be transported at distance from centrally located distribution points — another link on the environmental transportation impact chain. Plus there are several studies showing that economically, by supporting a locally owned business you keep more money in the local area – about 45%, compared to chains which pass through only about 13% in town. I don’t know how this would break down for a franchise, but the last time I left Ice Cream Charlie’s the owner held the door for us and wished us a good evening. And that’s just plain nice.
And of course it’s even more environmental if you eat your ice cream from a cone, not from a cup!
Do you have a local ice cream joint? Is it possible to walk to it?
Photo from flickr user whizchickenonabun via creative common license.
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