Activism Through Collaboration: New Belgium, Ben & Jerry’s, Protect Our Winters

I love following @ClimateOfGavin on Twitter. He’s a climatologist, and I learn a lot. I’ll be honest, even with my background in science, sometimes it’s a bit tough to follow (I have no climate training), but overall it’s well worth it. Gavin is interesting and very clear.

Unfortunately, what he’s clear about is that anthropogenic climate change is happening. Like it or not, here we go.

The bad news is the phrase “locked in,” meaning we’re already guaranteed some amount of massive negative impact from climate change. But maybe there’s hope yet that we can prevent further lock-in. And that will take advocacy.

Enter Protect Our Winters to this post. An advocacy organization rooted in the snow sports (skiing, snowboarding, etc), Protect Our Winters is about raising awareness and education around climate change, as well as encouraging advocacy within and beyond its members. As we all know, making noise is one of the biggest keys to getting a point across, and Protect Our Winters would like to make the point that winter can still be saved.

A small dog (my dog Kiki), in the snow, staring alertly ahead.

Enter New Belgium Brewing and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. Though it is clear they had interest in working together on some collaboration for a bit, it’s also no surprise that it ended up benefiting a climate change advocacy organization, given Ben and Jerry’s is extremely focused on climate this year. (See “Why 2015?” in the questions, in particular.)

Ok, so we have New Belgium Brewing, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, and Protect Our Winters. This has resulted in Salted Caramel Brownie Brown Ale and Salted Caramel Brown-ie Ale ice cream. And a portion of the proceeds from each sale will go to Protect Our Winters.

A close up of a handbag, lightly dusted in snow, containing a baggie of unused bottle caps.

So what makes this different from, say, Yoplait’s 10¢ per lid charity giveaway?

The collaborative action, for one. I’ve emailed and been on the phone with Sean Greenwood from Ben & Jerry’s and Bryan Simpson from New Belgium Brewing Company and a couple of things are very clear: both companies have a strong cultural passion for working toward improving our climate situation and while they understand “money talks” is part of how the possibility of improvement happens, they also understand that money doesn’t speak alone.

So, on the money side of things, the companies have made these products, and then agreed to match one another’s donations to Protect Our Winters. Meaning, for example, if you love beer but have a casein allergy and can’t have ice cream, you can still impact gifting from both companies by buying beer. And if you can and want to consume both? WELL. That sounds like more than doubling your impact to me! (Yes, this is my plan. I love food and beer.)

A large scuplture, clearly made with a chainsaw, of Bigfoot holding an ice cream cone.

And do I truly believe your purchase will have an impact, versus merely an incentive to buy ice cream and/or beer? I do. Greenwood was pretty clear with me that they’ve worked out expected donation numbers, based in part on sales projections (which are, in turn, based on how much they donated via Save Our Swirled earlier this year). He was clear with me this estimate was based on sales projections; actual numbers can’t come until the end.

But the side of this that’s “money doesn’t speak alone” or going beyond so many people’s favorite “consuming our way to goodness, their advocacy campaign, makes this far more damn interesting to me.

Not only are these two teaming up to donate money, they’re banding with Protect Our Winters to ask that people contact their governors and ask them to support and implement The Clean Power Plan.

Both for-profit companies here have made no secret of their tendencies toward activism and political opinions in the past, so this isn’t exactly a surprise move from them. But it shows a willingness to obviously stand behind opinions that they truly feel are important.

A wall placard over cuneiform writing at a museum reading,

And it matters enough to them to ask their customers to stand behind these positions as well. To gently urge them to do more than just buy things to send money, by hosting various “pour over” events across the country. One coming up in Cleveland promises not only “craft beer and ice cream” but also “everything to write your governor a letter” voicing your support for action on climate.

That’s taking action: both in putting money down and putting action behind the words of support.

I’m told there’s a pour-over even on Monday the 9th in Portland, Oregon, but I have no more details than that. Once I have them, I’ll update this post. And you can bet I’ll be there, if my plane lands on time.