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Guest Interview: BEN & JERRY’S

In continuing our blog series with each of our charter supporters of the Greensburg Wind Farm, our seventh blog is with Ben & Jerry’s Homemade, Inc. This time, we meet Andrea Asch, manager of natural resource use.

For many people, Ben & Jerry’s Homemade was the first company they knew to put corporate social responsibility at the forefront of their brand. NativeEnergy has worked with Ben & Jerry’s since 2002 to help them better understand, and reduce, their carbon footprint. The Greensburg Wind Farm, their latest carbon reduction investment, is far from their first foray into renewable energy projects with a community focus. Ben & Jerry’s has helped build many projects, primarily farm methane and wind power that support rural farming communities. 

Andrea says that it is important for Ben & Jerry’s to be an advocate for renewable energy, as “it is core to Ben & Jerry’s business to support new technology – supporting renewable energy is key to leading with progressive values.”

The company has the track record to prove it:

  • Years ago they launched the ‘Lick Global Warming’ campaign. This was a way for people to learn how to reduce their CO2 and to take action.
  • In 2009, with the help of NativeEnergy, they completed a carbon inventory of their business to determine where they had the biggest carbon impact... it turned out to be dairy farming and distribution of frozen product.
  • As part of their launch in Australia, Ben & Jerry’s worked with NativeEnergy to study the shipping options and potential Australian-based carbon-reduction projects.
  • Currently, Ben & Jerry’s is working on refrigeration that uses hydrocarbons such as butane or propane instead of HFCs, which are intense greenhouse gases according the Ben & Jerry’s web site

Andrea approaches carbon management as a way to “close the loop.” For example, the company’s first carbon offset investments were in farm methane projects. As you can imagine, the company relies heavily on dairy farms to make their amazing ice cream. NativeEnergy’s farm methane projects use “digester” technology to capture the methane (a greenhouse gas that is more than 20 times more powerful than CO2) from the cow manure, and then burn it to create renewable energy. Currently almost all of the waste ice cream from their plants goes to two Vermont methane digesters to generate on-farm electricity.

Another of Andrea’s guiding principles is that we can always learn from Mother Nature. The Greensburg Wind Farm embraces the natural elements, which can be both harmful and beneficial. “Greensburg is such a grassroots project,” Andrea explains, noting a massive tornado wiped out the town in May 2007. “This project harnesses the wind that destroyed the town in the first place and uses it to create renewable energy. What a great example of how renewable energy can truly help repair a community!”

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