Ben and Jerry's

Mention Ben and Jerry’s to anyone and a picture of heart melting, mouth-watering creamy ice-cream pops up in the mind offering you a gamut of flavors ranging from chunky monkey to cherry garcia. However, Ben and Jerry became my personal favorite after I found how they were obsessed with lowering their carbon footprint.

Ben & Jerry’s used LCA (Life cycle analysis) ardently to reduce to environmental impacts, including our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. With the challenge of climate change looming larger than ever, they wanted to determine their largest emission sources, and develop concrete strategies on how to drive them even lower.

Life Cycle Analysis
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Getting on with the task they found out that each pint they made adds up to two pounds of CO2 emissions to the atmosphere. (To give you an idea of how much that is, a medium car generates around one pound of CO2 per mile driven).

In Depth Analysis : Getting the hands dirty

Getting an in-depth picture of the emissions of each stage of the ice cream’s “life cycle”, made them aware of the greatest climate impact areas:

  • Growing and producing ingredients: 54%
  • Transporting ice cream from our plant to the distribution centers: 14%
  • Freezing product at the stores: 10%
  • All packaging throughout the production process: 10%
  • Operating our factories : 7%

Ben and Jerry’s then used this information to evaluate production scenarios that maximize efficiency for each flavor— for example, manufacturing Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream at the plant nearest to where the actual cookie dough is created could cut down transportation costs and emissions. The manufacturing plants pushed hard to reduce their emissions— which had contributed 7% of the total emissions.

The Difficult Task

The bigger and more difficult chunk was still to be worked upon –41% of Ben & Jerry’s total carbon footprint is traceable back to the cows that create the common ingredient in every Ben & Jerry’s flavor— cream. When it comes to climate change, the methane from the front and back ends of cows is approximately 21 times more potent than C02, making manure management a major opportunity for improvement. The nitrous oxide associated with fertilizers doesn’t appear in the same quantities as methane, but clocking in at 300 times more potent than CO2, this gas is another area where farmers needed help to reduce their use.

Numbers helped them set targets to work towards reducing the source of GHG (green house gas) emission with creative solutions – which meant new approach to farm and manure management.

Innovative Solution

Ben & Jerry’s started working with farmers on innovations like a separator that makes bedding out of manure, reducing 50% of the methane that would otherwise end up in the lagoon. It’s a win-win, saving the farm that is using the technology $30,000 in bedding and manure management costs annually, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions 10,000 metric tons over 10 years.

While a products footprint would be perhaps the last factor for the consumer to determine his choice, however – given the times we live in, we as consumers should put a thought of the product’s impact on the climate. In the meantime, don’t forget to enjoy your pint of Ben and Jerry’s this season.