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Climate-friendly whipped cream dispensers

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Posted by Helen Breewood on 18-04-2016 - Last updated on 18-04-2016

Nitrous oxide, the gas used in whipped cream dispensers, contributes to global warming more than 300 times as strongly as carbon dioxide. Could we find an alternative?

Whipped cream cans or dispensers use nitrous oxide (N2O) as an aerosol to create light, fluffy cream in an instant.  N2O is used because it is soluble in fat, so it can dissolve into the cream and produce bubbles when the pressure is released.  Furthermore, N2O prevents the cream from going rancid.  

However, N2O contributes strongly to climate change.  I estimate that 1.5 litres of whipped dairy cream (the amount that can be whipped by one cartridge of N2O) has a carbon footprint of 5.4 kg CO2 eq., of which about 55% comes from the production of the dairy cream itself and 45% comes from the release of N2O to the atmosphere.  

Could an alternative gas be used as the propellant?  Oxygen and carbon dioxide are both soluble in fat, but oxygen would cause the cream to go rancid if stored for too long, and carbon dioxide would cause the cream to become acidic and curdle.

Aside from using handwhisks or electric whisks, which take more time and may not be acceptable to consumers or may be inconvenient in a food service environment, perhaps an alternative design of whipped cream dispenser could be used.

In dispensers that use cartridges of N2O, the gas is released from the cartridge into the container of cream all at once, then the cream/gas mixture is stored and dispensed as required over time.

If the dispenser could be designed such that the gas and cream were stored separately and then mixed together only as the cream is being dispensed at the point of use, this would remove the need to use a gas that prevents spoilage.  Perhaps the use of oxygen, which is not a greenhouse gas, would become viable.  This operation principle could also reduce waste by allowing only the cream needed to be whipped, rather than whipping a whole dispenser full and only using some of it.  Another way in which it could reduce waste is that, in a normal can of whipped cream, some cream remains inside the can after most of the gas has been discharged, because when the interior of the can reaches atmospheric pressure there is no force driving the cream out of the can.  If the cream was only dispensed as used, then there would be no need for some to remain in the dispenser and be wasted.



  1. Bonnie Lewtas Bonnie Lewtas

    I definitely agree that such dispensers are inefficient, however, whipped cream is by default an unsustainable product no matter which container is used. The consumption of dairy has been linked to many major diseases and supports one of the most environmentally damaging and cruel industries on the planet. In my opinion, this cannot be considered sustainable innovation as it could lead to an increase in whipped cream consumption - which we should be moving away from. Would rather see a complete product redesign (including sustainable dispensers) without the use of animal products ;-)

    1. Helen Breewood Helen Breewood

      Hi Bonnie, I completely agree. I'm actually vegan. I had this idea because I was annoyed that the vegan whipped cream I was using probably wasn't very environmentally friendly due to the propellant!

  2. Bonnie Lewtas Bonnie Lewtas

    Ah cool. Thanks, for your answer. Didn't realize that the first time around. Your right, there must be a way to make vegan whipped cream more sustainable! :-D

    1. Helen Breewood Helen Breewood

      Thanks! I certainly hope so. The rebound problem you mentioned (of higher efficiency leading to greater overall use) probably applies to most solutions suggested here, unfortunately. So I don't think that sustainable product design on its own can ever be enough - people have to want to reduce their overall footprint.

  3. Sustainovators Sustainovators

    Dear Helen, It is time to vote on the most significant and interesting problems from the first phase of the challenge and to spread the word about your idea: Which of the problems submitted regarding the worst unsustainable products do you find most meaningful? Which should the innonatives community take further in Phase 2 to work on solutions? Take the chance and promote your idea among your friends and your social network connections. If you get the most votes then we will continue working with your idea in phase 2 of the challenge. Please go to and vote on the problems submitted by clicking on each idea, and clicking on the stars above the idea brief: 5 stars are best, 1 star is worst. We love to hear your opinion! Your sustainovators team