Ice cream and cars. Not what you would normally associate with curbing climate change. But this week the Vermont Public Interest Research Group teamed up with Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream to heighten people’s awareness and involvement in climate action for Energy Independence Week.
Energy Independence Week grew out of a single day - March 21st - to teach Vermonters how to move away from fossil fuels and towards efficiency and clean energy.
A coalition of Vermont environmental and conservation groups, led by the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, wants legislators in Montpelier to pass a bill that would make Vermont the first state in the country to implement a carbon tax. VPIRG Climate and Energy Program Director Ben Walsh. “It’s really clear that putting a price on carbon pollution here in Vermont is the single biggest thing that we can do to move towards energy independence and frankly reducing the amount of money spent on fossil fuels. It isn’t just good for our environment or good for global warming, it’s also good for Vermonters’ pocketbooks.”
Walsh adds that moving to a clean energy future must be long-term strategy. “Nobody is suggesting that we’re going to turn off the spigot tomorrow and Vermont’s going to become an island. But we are absolutely making strides towards efficiency and clean energy. In Vermont some of the best electric efficiency work going on in the country through Efficiency Vermont. We’re starting to crack the nut of how to heat our homes and get around the state more efficiently and using cleaner energy sources. But that of course is where we have the most work to do.”
Ben & Jerry’s helped VPIRG begin this year’s Energy Independence Week by unveiling a Tesla electric vehicle that has been converted to distribute ice cream. The ice cream makers will drive it across the country for their “Save Our Swirled” Climate Tour. Ben and Jerry’s Activism Manager Chris Miller is on route to Denver. “For Ben and Jerry’s we have come to the conclusion that two things are incredibly important about 2015. One is the sort-of rapidly closing window of opportunity to act on climate change. Scientists say we have to get our act together soon. The second piece is that world leaders are gathering at the end of the year in Paris in the hopes of coming up with a framework to begin to put us on a path to solve climate change. So we understand the importance of 2015 which is why we’ve kicked off the “Save Our Swirled” campaign in an effort to help build public awareness and really encourage people to take action on this issue.”
So how does distributing ice cream from an electric car accomplish that? “Ice cream is an incredibly powerful organizing tool for social activism. People love free ice cream. The Tesla really is not just about it being an electric vehicle. It’s a symbol of what solutions to climate change look like. It is the future. It’s an amazing car. So the point of the Tesla is it’s a symbol of what the future looks like when we move towards solutions to climate change.”
The Save Our Swirled Climate Tour will last into 2016. It is the first time Ben & Jerry’s has run a global activism campaign.