Wine Talk with Alice Swift
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – The Carbon Footprint of Wine
Have you ever taken the time to think about where your wine comes from and how it gets to your wine glass? Sure, the sommelier recommending a wine for you will share with you the winemaker’s story and choices in grape varietal, style, aging, aroma/flavor profile etc. But what about the materials, the energy consumption and the other factors that producing a wine has on the environment? Whether you believe in global warming or not, it’s a fact that the United States is one of the most wasteful countries in the world (per capita) while at the same time not doing its part to recycle as much as it could. While there isn’t a single solution that can solve all our problems, one of the ways that we can do our part as part of the wine industry (from viticulture to production to consumption) is to become more knowledgeable about the energy that goes into making wine.
There are so many environmental impacts at every step of the wine production process. Just take a look at some examples of energy consumed:
• Viticulture: Think about the electricity and other energy to power machinery used to support the grape growing and harvesting.
• Viniculture: Ethanol and other gases are emitted during fermentation.
• Packaging: According to research conducted by the Waste and Resource Action Programme, the average wine bottle sold in the UK is 500 grams,1 or slightly over one pound! The wine itself is only 750 mL, or ~26.2 ounces, so 60% of the weight of the average wine is composed of the bottle and not the beverage itself!
• Transportation: Wine has to travel on the road, across the ocean and even fly. The amount of emissions differs greatly depending on the mode of transportation, as well as how far the wine has to go.
• Discarding (Post-Consumption): Once a wine has been consumed, the likely destination for the bottle and any other packaging will be to the garbage bin.
Two of the biggest contributors to the carbon footprint of wine are Packaging and Transport, which account for more than 50% combined.2 Wine is imported and exported all around the world, and the packaging that the wine comes in has such a high impact on the energy it takes to transport it. Heavier wine bottles will expend more energy than lighter bottles.3
So, how do we reduce our carbon footprint of wine? (Recommendations)
Other than the usual actions we as people can take (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), here are some ways that we as wine industry professionals can look to reducing our carbon footprint:
• Use lighter bottles! Get over the “aesthetics” that heavier bottles use. Look to use lighter bottles, and try to use green glass so that more recycled product is being used.4
• For business owners who do heavy wines by the glass sales, why not explore the options for bulk packaging? The concept of using kegs for beverage has extended beyond beer now, so how about reducing the use of wasteful packaging and look at bulk package options?
• Recycled grape waste products - You would be surprised to see just how many options there are for alternative uses to the leftover grape skins and seeds post-wine production. I have seen products such as wine flour, wine pasta, grapeseed oil and grappa.
For us as retail consumers, one of the biggest things we can do as consumers of wine? BUY LOCAL! Reduce that carbon footprint by reducing the journey that products take to get to your doorstep. Of course, that may be difficult for imported wine from other countries.
However, think about this in terms of other retail products that you purchase on a day to day basis. From your supermarket produce, to the regular delivery of Amazon packages that you might get in the mail, we are constantly having to battle carbon footprint tendencies.
By just being more aware of how food gets to our table, or how wine gets to our wine glass, we can hopefully start taking steps towards reducing our negative environmental impact. For more detailed research on the research into the carbon footprint of winemaking, check out the resource links at the bottom of this article.
Until next month, Cheers~!