Ben and Jerry’s: Contributing to the Detriment of Vermont’s Waters Since 1978

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

Since opening in 1978, Ben and Jerry’s has been globally recognized as one of the best and most socially conscious businesses in the world. Priding itself on three missions, including social, economic, and product, Ben and Jerry’s sets the standard on super premium ice cream. Lately however, their dairy practices have been contributing to the increasing pollution of Lake Champlain and the disappearance of thousands of small dairy farms across the state. Increased runoff from dairy farms has been leaching into the rivers and streams that run into the lake; phosphorus- and nitrogen- rich wastes result in increased algae blooms, suffocation of wildlife in the ecosystems of the lake, and a decrease in tourist opportunities.

The US Environmental Protection Agency recognizes Lake Champlain is impaired because of high levels of phosphorus into streams and rivers. The farms that large corporations like Ben and Jerry’s employ are the sources of this pollution. In addition to the treatment of the cows, Ben and Jerry’s contributes to the detriment of the small dairy farmers, watching as the number of individually owned farms dwindles from the tens of thousands to the thousands. Supporting these large industrial farms not only deprives the farmers of a livable wage, but the farms’ practices contribute to increasing pollution.

Manure and waste runoff that leach into surrounding streams and rivers feed algae blooms that harm wildlife by sucking up the nutrients in the water and creating dead zones where nothing lives. Along with destroying ecosystems in the water, these algae blooms pose medical threats to local beachgoers, and are potentially fatal to animals that ingest them. The solution to these problems will begin when dairy farms practice more sustainable and regenerative farming.


Will Allen, “All in? Or Deep Dairy Denial?” VTDigger, November 15, 2016, online at

John Walters, “Dirty Water: The ‘Lake Champlain Cleanup’ That Isn’t,” Seven Days, January 257, 2017,

Student Researcher: Allie Fontanese (University of Vermont)

Faculty Evaluator: Rob Williams (University of Vermont)