Sustainable Alcohol: S & S Top Picks

At A Glance

As we approach Christmas and annual tipple season where many a bottle is popped and glasses are shared between friends, family and colleagues at the rogue annual party I thought it appropriate to share a little information on sustainable alcohol from some guilt free gulping. This article explores sustainable production processes, packaging innovations, the environmental impact of alcohol consumption as well as a full list of suggestions to quench your thirst!

So from plant to pint, field to glass, pesticide free prosecco and liquor that lets up on the environment let us probe further…

The International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) identifies several key areas for making alcohol sustainably which include:

      Recycling and repurposing waste products such as casks

      Eliminating single-use plastics from the supply chain

      Ensuring the entire production process is energy efficient

 Opting for locally made products helps reduce a spirit’s carbon footprint too!

Did you know that….

      It takes around 298 litres of water to make just one litre of beer. 

      The carbon footprint of an average bottle of wine is around 1,200g – the equivalent to driving three miles in a small car. 

      A study by the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER) showed a single 750ml bottle of liquor produces over six pounds of CO2. This is the equivalent of six giant exercise balls full of CO2 for every bottle of booze you drink. 

S & S Top Picks

With this in mind I thought I would share the work of some fantastic breweries, brands and distilleries paving the way in sustainable alcohol.

  • Based in North Yorkshire, this distillery is the first in Europe to support the environmental initiative “1% for the Planet” where 1% goes to protecting the landscape and habitats of the Yorkshire Dales. They plant 1m² of woodland in the Dales for each bottle sold, saving around 50kg of CO2 per bottle!
  • Powered by 100% Green energy, their cooling system is run by recycled water, they use lighter glass bottles to reduce emissions on transport.
  • They have a local gin bottle refill system where they provide 15% discount.
  • They ship their orders in recycled carboard and biodegradable potato starch pellets.

      This umbrella company looks after the following: Boxer Gin, Element 29 Vodka, Toti Rum, Artigianale Prosecco and partner with the likes of Nobu, Rick Stein, Tate Modern & Honest Burgers!  

      As a B2B alcohol distributor, their green innovation, the Eco-Pouch that transports the spirits was created in 2012 reduces packaging by 95%, has a reduced transported weight of 45%, reduces transported volume by 63%. Not only this, they provide 100% energy saving on the carbon cost of producing a new bottle, becoming three times more effective than recycling. Their pouches save 4KwH of energy (enough to power a flat screen TV for two days).

Toast Ale

  • This brewery makes their own beer from the wasted and crust rejects from local bakeries!
  • Made in West Dorset, this vodka has a zero-waste ethos and utilises only one ingredient, the leftover whey from grass-fed cows milk from cheese making processes. This would otherwise go to waste. How does it work? They ferment the whey to convert the milk sugars into alcohol and then distil accordingly.
  • Bespoke, small batch gins made in Northamptonshire. It has partnered with the Royal Horticultural Society to protect bees as a portion of the profits go to the charity’s pollinator projects donating over £25,000 last year.
  • They source their water from the farm’s spring and use on-site botanicals.
  • Each bottle includes a packet of bee friendly wildflower seeds for your garden.
  • Low waste winemakers and distributors, using a ‘low intervention’ approach using no sulfur and as little technology/filtering as possible.
  • Created by Andrew Nielsen and his wife in France, they have innovated packaging, with the ‘bagnum’, a magnum in a bag, a new sustainable alcohol staple. Not only does this reduce weight as it omits glass bottles, it saves 80% of carbon emissions from grape to packaging.
  • This vineyard based in the infamous region of Sonoma region of California create wine through biodynamic principles through each process. This is everything from planting, pruning, picking and pressing the grapes. Following biodynamic processes has been hailed as creating happy, healthy soil and impacts the grapes positively.
  • Embrace biodiversity with livestock, beehives, vegetable and permaculture gardens.
  • Run 100% off of solar energy.
  • De Loach’s philosophy states they are “stewards of the land, with a profound responsibility to pass along a clean environment and revitalized, healthy soil to future generations.”
  • No glass used only recycled metal cans. The brand has halved its water usage per pint since 2013, sends the leftover grains to an urban farm, transports empty cans and delivers them in reusable packaging and all products are fully recyclable.
  • This brewery based in Suffolk creates not only whisky but gins and vodkas running entirely off renewable energy from solar panels and biogas derived from local waste.
  • They have halved their water usage through collecting rainwater and recycling systems and send absolutely no waste to landfill! It has also won the 2019 Foot Print awards that recognises sustainable businesses.

Looking mainstream, global brands owned by the likes of conglomerates such as Diageo have the infrastructure to harness sustainable production on a superior scale for example did you know that:

Their facilities in Sweden are carbon neutral and actively have the goal to achieve zero emissions/waste and 100% recycling by 2040. This is quite a feat as they provide over 500,000 bottles of Vodka a day! Their supply chains look to reduce carbon and they harvest, produce and hire local workers! The brand recently launched Absolut Elyx Vodka, made from 40% recycled glass, all produced within a 15 mile radius.

In its UK distillery, they use a biomass boiler that uses byproducts of the production process to power the distillery. Creating a circular system, lowering energy and is also partially powered by renewable hydro-energy!

Through their ‘Good Spirited: Building a Sustainable Future’ initiative they have reduced landfill waste by 35 tonnes, lowered Co2 emissions by 90% in it’s US plant. They have the ambition to source 100% sustainable sugarcane by 2022.

The parent company has plans to be powered by renewable energy by 2025, they are also working to reduce their CO2 footprint by 30%. Budweiser is already completely brewed by 100% renewable energy.

Final Thoughts

Whilst most of my suggestions are predominantly UK based to latch onto the local ethos for your liquors, many global distilleries and fermenters are engaging in sustainable production processes. As the premium/niche alcohol market continues to grow with the number of craft ales and gins expanding rapidly, the future looks bright for sustainable debauchery! A big opportunity is to tackle packaging on a mass scale as we have seen with the ‘bagnum’ and eco-pouch that mitigate the environmental toll of distribution through decreasing volume required for transit, in addition to the several benefits that come with a refill economy. So, whether it’s gifting or seeing out the decade in tipsy sustainable style, wine not explore some of the above options. A X

Leave a Reply