When striving to follow a more sustainable path and reduce your carbon footprint obvious changes like using a reusable water bottle and buying clothes used may come to mind, but there are more ways then one to be a conscious consumer.
Rethinking how every aspect of your life can become more sustainable is the real key, and that will of course be individual to you!
Every little change adds up, even the ones that aren’t so obvious.
So what about something as simple as an ice cream sundae?
Well, to begin, not all ice creams are the same!
The Real Deal:
By definition, real ice cream should be made like egg custard, then churned and frozen.
In the U.S. the term ice cream is legally required to be made up of a minimum of 10% milkfat, must weigh no less than 4.5 lbs per gallon, and cannot have more than 100% overrun.
Overrun refers to the air that is whipped into the cream during the churning and freezing process and helps contribute to the light, and fluffy texture of ice cream.
Ice creams with low overrun with be denser in comparison to ice creams with high overrun percentages.
Regulating overrun along with weight per gallon is important to ensure that manufactures are not selling ice cream that has more air than cream!
For similar reasons, milk fat content is measured to be sure that the fat content isn’t being replaced with processed oils.
Tip: If you notice that the label says “Frozen Dairy Dessert” it is most likely because the product does not fit the legal standards to be called ice cream.
What to Look Out For:
Is it organic?
For agricultural workers and local people, the health impacts of conventional agrochemical use are numerous.
In general, the standard of living for workers on organic farms is much greater than conventional farm workers.
In addition, the USDA’s has strict regulations for organic.
Organic milk must come from a cow that has not been treated with antibiotics, has not been given hormones ― for either reproduction or growth ― and has been fed at least 30 percent of its diet on pasture.
Is it ethical?
It’s important to put into consideration the ingredients used in the ice cream other than dairy.
Quite often exotic ingredients like chocolate, coffee, and vanilla are used for flavorings and mix-ins and the sourcing of these ingredients greatly impacts the sustainability of the product.
Look for the Fairtrade logo to make sure that the ice cream you are buying was ethically sourced.
Sometimes this will even be noted in the ingredients list if it’s only referring to one ingredient in the ice cream, such as “fair trade cocoa“.
Is it local?
In terms of reducing ‘food miles’ and supporting your local economy, it’s always best to buy direct from farm shops and local businesses.
When choosing ice cream it can be easy to default to the popular brands but you may be surprised to find out that there are creameries local to you and by buying their ice cream you are helping support your local community.
What To Avoid:
Does it contain palm oil?
Palm oil is a vegetable oil sourced from palm trees that are commonly used as an additive in ice cream.
Palm oil has been and continues to be a major driver of deforestation of some of the world’s most biodiverse forests, destroying the habitat of already endangered species like the Orangutan, Pygmy Elephant, and Sumatran Rhino.
The palm oil industry is also responsible for serious violations of human rights including worker exploitation and child labor.
If the ice cream has added oils in the ingredients, opt for sunflower oil instead.
Is it Factory Farmed?
In general factory farms have a very negative impact on the environment, not to mention that the animals are confined and commonly mistreated.
Factory farming greatly contributes to air pollution and is responsible for a huge portion of greenhouse gas emissions through methane production.
Opt for ice cream brands that are local and organic to avoid buying from a factory farm.
Is it GMO-Free?
Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs, have been shown to negatively affect habitat biodiversity and the companies responsible for the manufacturing GMO seeds and crops have been criticized for seriously exploiting small-scale farmers.
The spread of GMO crops such as corn, soy, and rice is directly responsible for the destruction of the Monarch butterfly habitat in North America and has caused many indigenous grain species to go extinct.
Opt for brands that have the GMO-free label when not buying organic.
Dairy Free Ice Cream:
When it comes to sustainability choosing a dairy-free ice cream option is a great way to avoid the negatives associated with the quality of the milk used!
Many dairy-free options tend to be made with coconut milk, soy milk, or almond milk or frozen fruit, such as banana.
When looking for dairy-free options be extra careful to avoid unnecessary additives like palm oil.
Sustainable Ice Cream Brands:
Written by Rheanna Smith, Education Specialist