Cooler Planet is a Vermont based start-up Company that works with maple syrup and honey producers to minimize their carbon footprint.
by Terry McDonnell, Founder of Cooler Planet Food Company
I came up with the idea for the Cooler Planet Food Company after visiting the Dana Brother’s sugar house in Weathersfield, Vermont. I was struck by how little energy they used in their operation. The sugar house is full of windows which provide ample passive light. Their “filling line is in a basement space under the arch which allows them to use gravity instead of pumps. They bottle immediately after boiling, thereby saving fuel in not needing to re-heat their product. Most importantly, they fuel their arch with wood harvested from their sugar bush. After seeing their operation, I wondered if it would be possible to create a market for food products made with low-carbon production practices.
I have been interested in alternative energy issues since 1986 when I rebuilt an abandoned 500 KwH hydroelectric generating station in Columbia, NJ. We installed two submersible Flygt turbines that still produce clean, renewable electricity for about 400 homes. I am a big believer in both large and small scale hydro. More recently, I took our home in Norwich, Vermont “off the grid” by installing a 7 kW solar array on the south facing roof of our barn and putting a 160,000 BTU Froeling log boiler in the basement. Both systems are simple and clean. The payback on the log boiler is better than the solar but both were worth doing!
After visiting the Dana’s Brothers sugar house, my next move was to reach out to Resource Systems Group (RSG) of White River Junction, Vermont. RSG provides public utilities, environmental groups and government agencies with detailed analysis of energy issues and challenges. I hired RSG to perform a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) on maple syrup and honey production to determine what factors have the greatest effect on their carbon footprint. The RSG analysis concluded that fuel choice (wood, oil, propane), packaging, and “food miles” are the main factors to consider when evaluating the carbon footprint of maple syrup production. When it comes to honey, it turns out it’s all about food miles and packaging – meaning buying local and in plastic containers – means a smaller carbon footprint.
The RSG study con”firmed that not all food is created equal when it comes to Co2! Every producer employs a unique production practice. It follows that every producer has a unique carbon footprint associated with their practices. The goal of Cooler Planet is to encourage more maple and honey producers to adopt production practices that will help cool the planet. Cooler Planet pays a premium to maple and honey producers that agree to work with Cooler Planet to lower their carbon footprint. Cooler Planet is building a new facility in Windsor, Vermont where you can learn more about how their business works and how they hope to help cool the planet. The facility, located at 71 Artisan’s Way, will open to visitors in May 2012.
Cooler Planet is building a new facility in Windsor, Vermont where you can learn more about how their business works and how they hope to help cool the planet. The facility, located at 71 Artisan’s Way, will open to visitors in May 2012.
“Our syrup in about as low carbon as you can get, we are wood fired, 100% steamaway all stainless steel drums, 800 gallons this year. We burn slabs and salvaged wood from the forest.” – Floyd’s Van Alstyne, a third generation sugar maker from Barnard, Vermont