August 11, 2011

How to hold your Ice-Cream

Today, a micro-subject again.
(even though minuscule in scale, micro-subject can demonstrate great principles).

We'll be comparing, once more, two ways to do the same thing, with radically different conceptual qualities and environmental impacts: the edible ice-cream cone and the disposable ice-cream cup. A simple choice we make in a split second at the ice-cream store - ['we' the spoiled-enough to have and go to such places - if you're reading me from rural Burkina-Faso, this entry and probably the entirety of this blog is indecent, but maybe that's the reason I am writing it too].

So yes, when asked 'cone or cup', we choose what we're in the mood for:

Option A: THE CUP

Paper cups at Toscanini's Ice Cream, Cambridge, MA - original photo by surlygirl

- it's either paper coated with plastic or wax (i.e. difficult to compost) / or polystyrene foam / or a plastic cup.
- often printed with advertising (an extra industrial step)
- inevitably creates the need for a plastic spoon or several
- quite dumb structurally (holds ice-cream by stopping it with walls)
- after consumption, has to be discarded, overflows the garbage at the JP Licks, fills the landfill, etc.
I am no specialist in CO2 emissions or manufacturing, but cups seem quite energy-intensive with a relatively ugly, polluting ending.

So take a look at the marvellous alternative that sits next to them on the counter:


Option B: THE CONE

A wafer cone - original photo by TheCulinaryGeek

After doing a bit of fascinating research on cones (waffle, sugar, wafer, etc.) - the winner in my view is, hands down, the molded wafer cone.
- made of a mix of flour, starch, sugar, fat, water, shortening and baking powder
- is the result of one process which apparently creates little waste
- is an extra light structure whose shape has only been determined by its ability to carry the weight and droppings of ice-cream - a great piece of engineering (sugar and waffle cones, although quite good themselves, do not reach the same level of refinement when it comes to design).

'Cone designers refine the waffle pattern and other shape characteristics and make trial batches to find the best design that releases from the mold without burning, breaking, or creating weak spots that won't hold ice cream or will break when the scoop is applied. The molded cone has a lip around the top that keeps drips contained inside the cone. The row of teeth helps firmly seat the scoop of ice cream and provides added strength where the upper lip of the cone meets the cylindrical base.'
(from How Ice Cream Cone is Made, by Gillian S. Holmes)

Ribs inside a wafer cone - original photo by seanfraga

- can be eaten entirely by a human being after the ice-cream is done with.

There. Isn't this a brilliant example of good design, providing just what is needed, while having a seemingly benign environmental impact? Packaging turned into food, so old and so essential as an idea.


So, next time you have the choice, do the right thing:
be a cone-(wo)man.



Note 1: I recommend taking a peak at conewafer.com (weird and great).
Note 2: Cones appear to me to be a lesser evil, however they'll reach perfection only when we can trace all their ingredients to safe and sound production methods. Hopefully this is not wishful thinking.
Note 3: We don't need to eat ice-cream.

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