WATERBURY, Vt. (AP) — The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Friday toured the Ben & Jerry's ice cream plant in Waterbury, where she heard about company business practices that place emphasis on its social mission and its environmentally sound production methods.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson got a tour of the plant's production area and saw its waste recycling and reclamation practices, which reduce the amount of water the plant needs to get from the local water system and the amount that's fed into the Waterbury sewage treatment system.
On Thursday, the first day of her two-day visit to Vermont, Jackson toured a solar power installation at the Vermont National Guard base in South Burlington.
"I think it's important for Americans to remember, the clean economy, the green energy economy, whatever you want to talk about is more than just seeing really big installations of wind farms or solar panels," Jackson said Friday after her Ben & Jerry's tour. "It's also thinking about sustainability throughout a supply chain, like they do here with their value sourcing. It's thinking about how to educate customers about where their food comes from and how to ensure it's safe."
What Ben & Jerry's is doing is something that other companies can do if they are determined to do so.
"They are not using new technology here. You know, they're making ice cream, they're treating their wastewater. They have made a commitment to make cost effective investments in energy efficiency. They are pushing the envelope on recycling," Jackson said. "None of those things happen because you wave your hands and say I'd like to do it. It requires working within your community."
On Thursday, she met with farmers and state agriculture officials. Among the topics they discussed were efforts to clean up Lake Champlain, a significant part of which entails reducing pollution from farms.
"This is a tough time for the dairy industry," Jackson said.
And farmers are looking for certainty in their anti-pollution efforts, she said.
"When times are tough and people are working on the margins the most important thing the government can do is help to give certainty," Jackson said. "Once we make an investment they are not going to come back and ask me to do even more."
While the topics were challenging, the Waterbury visit had its lighthearted moments.
Jackson was escorted through the plant by Ben & Jerry's CEO Jostein Solheim and other company officials.
The tour ended when everyone was given ice cream.
Jackson's favorite Ben & Jerry's flavor? Chunky Monkey, which is banana ice cream with fudge chunks and walnuts.