Ice cream by the scoop: An environmental mess

Photo of ice cream cone dropped on the pavement
“Tragedy” by Johnathan Nightingale (Flickr)

One of the happy side-effects of living in the Cities this summer is that I’ve been able to partake of locally made ice cream being sold by a number of local vendors. Morris doesn’t have a lot of options in that department (DQ isn’t really ice cream), so my ice cream habit is supported primarily by Ben & Jerry’s and Häagen-Dazs from Willie’s). Here in the Cities, however, there’s ice cream all over the place, and I’ve definitely been taking full advantage :)

In the process, however, I’ve been forced to confront the unfortunate reality of the packaging mess that is by-the-scoop ice cream. I always try to order it in cones instead of cups, so the container is consumed instead of entering the garbage stream, but even that’s often not a huge help. The Wilde Roast is just down the road a piece and has a nice selection of gelato, for example, and I have been known to amble down to enjoy a little. Unfortunately, even if I order a cone, they scoop it into one of their plastic serving cups (essentially as a measuring device), then splooch it into the cone, and then throw the cup away! They also stick a little plastic spoon in my cone, thereby ensuring that I’ve ended up putting just as much plastic crap in the waste stream as I would have if I’d ordered it in a cup in the first place. And then there’s the paper wrapper on the cone, and the napkins ’cause is runs and drips, and blah, and blah, and blah…

There was once this crazy time when people sat down and ate ice cream in a glass bowl with a metal spoon, both of which could be washed. This is simply not an option at the majority of the places I’ve been getting ice cream at – even if you sit down you get a paper or a plastic cup and a plastic spoon. And I seem to remember that when I was a kid ice cream cones were a more straight forward, less wasteful deal – there was probably a lot of paper (’cause they were still a mess), but there was a heck of a lot less plastic (like, I’m thinking, none).

This, frankly, is dumb, and we can totally do better. I suspect the big problem is that plastic is too cheap due to the complex subsidy chain, so neither the cost of its production or its disposal are being properly assessed in our accounting and decision making.

In the meantime, it would be nice if I could order my ice cream in a nice (or, hell, a cheap) glass bowl with a metal spoon. Maybe I should start bringing my own, although I suspect they’d refuse to scoop into it (some sort of health regs) and I’d still end up with a plastic spoon stuck on top before I’d managed to cut them off at the pass.

There’s an Izzy’s Ice Cream opening tomorrow about a block from the Guthrie, which is just across the river from where I’m staying. It’s a very good thing (for my waistline, my pocketbook, and for the environment) that it and I won’t be together very long before I head back to Morris.

A very good thing.

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2 thoughts on “Ice cream by the scoop: An environmental mess”

  1. Good points. Izzy’s at least makes an effort to compost their waste (or they do at the St Paul) location.

    1. A little slow here, but the new Izzy’s in Minneapolis also composts all their bits and pieces, which was nice. I tended to pick up ice cream at the mid-point of a substantial walk, so by the time I was done I was often well away from their composting bins, however. Still, they’re pretty good about the waste issue, certainly better than many of the other places I bought ice cream from this summer.

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