The grass is always greener: Brands championing sustainability

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Drinks: Drinks
Other: Business

We might all love them, but most drinks are not, sadly, all that eco-friendly. Julie Sheppard picks out the brands with sustainability as well as drinkability


So you’re taking some positive steps to make your business more eco-friendly. You’ve stopped using plastic straws, started serving wines on tap and bought a composter. But have you thought about the eco credentials of the drinks you’re selling?

The actual process of manufacturing alcoholic drinks can have a detrimental effect on the environment, if it isn’t done sustainably. Energy use, sourcing of raw ingredients, water management, packaging and dealing with waste are all key issues that drinks producers need to tackle.

Did you know, for instance, that it takes around 298 litres of water to make just one litre of beer? Or that the carbon footprint of an average bottle of wine is around 1,200g – surprisingly, that’s the equivalent to driving three miles in a Honda Accord.

In order to help you create a more environmentally-friendly drinks list, we’ve rounded up the brands that happen to boast impressive eco credentials.


Spirits 

Ketel One’s Nolet Distillery

Absolut Vodka, Sweden
A clear contender for most sustainable spirits brand, Absolut is made in what it claims to be the world’s most energy-efficient distillery. Located in Åhus, it’s carbon-neutral and aiming for zero-emissions, zero-waste and 100% recycling by 2040 – all while producing over half a million bottles of vodka daily.

Bacardi Rum, US
Bacardi operates a global environmental initiative called ‘Good Spirited: Building a Sustainable Future’, which has so far led to a 35-ton reduction of landfill waste and 90% less carbon emissions at its US rum bottling facilities. It works with sustainable sugar-cane farms, aiming for 100% sustainable sourcing by 2022.

Bombay Sapphire Gin, UK
Bombay’s Laverstoke Mill distillery in the south-west of England won a BREEAM award for its design in 2014, in recognition of best practice for sustainability. Features include a biomass boiler that uses by-products of the distillation process, and renewable, low-carbon energy such as a hydro-electric turbine. The distillery also sits within a wetland conservation area.

Glengoyne Whisky, UK
Run by Ian Macleod Distillers, Glengoyne uses 100% renewable energy and has won numerous sustainability awards. The distillery is set within its own wetlands and is a partner to the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, helping to convert CO2 and conserve nature.

Ketel One Vodka, Netherlands
The Nolet Distillery in Schiedam is powered by a giant wind turbine disguised as a traditional Dutch windmill, and the surplus energy it generates contributes to the national grid. Brand-owner Diageo has a sustainability policy that includes using recycled packaging, reducing waste and water management.


Wines

Solar panels at Las Bodegas Torres

Backsberg, South Africa
Paarl-based winery Backsberg was the first in the country to achieve carbon-neutral status. Owner Michael Back has also switched to biofuels, protects endangered fynbos and runs a local greening programme to plant trees. His range of Tread Lightly wines use PET packaging to reduce shipping weight and fuel costs.

Grove Mill, New Zealand
Located in Marlborough, Grove Mill is the first ever carbon-neutral winery. It farms sustainably, offsets all its emissions and sponsors forest regeneration in the nearby Marlborough Sounds river valleys. Other green initiatives include the protection of nearby wetlands, which are home to a rare species of frog, called the Southern Bell.

Tahbilk, Australia
After becoming carbon neutral in 2012, Tahbilk in the state of Victoria became the first Australian winery to be certified by carboNZero, the world’s first internationally accredited greenhouse gas scheme. It is one of only eight wineries globally to have full carboNZero certification. Tahbilk is also converting to solar power, and visitors to its cellar door can follow a 4km wetland eco-trail around the whole winery.

Torres, Spain
Inspired by watching Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth in 2007, winemaker Miguel A Torres invested €10m (£89m) in its Torres & Earth programme to reduce CO2 emissions. Sustainability projects include using a biomass furnace to recycle vine prunings and grape marc; and using lightweight glass bottles.

Yealands, New Zealand
Since becoming the first CarboNZero certified winery in New Zealand, all Yealands’ wines have a carbon zero footprint. A pioneer of environmental best practice, Yealands invented a burner system to convert vine prunings to energy and has the largest solar-panel installation in the country. It also became the first wine supplier member of the UK’s Sustainable Restaurant Association in 2012.


Eco Beers

Five green bottles sitting on a bar… Well actually cans are better, as they’re infinitely recyclable, but we don’t know a song about that. Here’s our pick of British craft brews with sustainable street cred

Born in the Borders
Using barley grown in fields around the Jedburgh brewery, this Scottish brewer has a rigorous plough-to-pint ethos, with locally foraged ingredients used to flavour its Wild Harvest range.

Cwm Rhondda Ales
The Jones family runs a farm in the Welsh valleys, brewing with local barley, hops and spring water, and using a biomass boiler. Waste products are used for compost and animal food.

Fourpure
London-based brewery run by brothers Dan and Tom Lowe. Initiatives include recycling CO2 to purge tanks
and using only recyclable or reusable packaging.

Purity Brewing
As well as supplying spent grain and hops to local farms for animal feed, this Warwickshire brewery uses a natural reed-bed filtering system for waste water.

Stamps Brewery
This Liverpool microbrewer uses solar energy and a biomass boiler. Spent grain becomes pig food for a city farm and rainwater is captured for cleaning.

About Author

Julie Sheppard

Julie is managing editor of Imbibe and joined the team in 2006. She has written about drinks for the past 16 years in a varied career that includes treading grapes in the Douro and foraging for juniper in Northumberland. When she's not hanging out with the on-trade, Julie writes about food, drinks and travel for Time Out, Square Meal, Conde Nast Traveller, Waitrose Food Illustrated and Waitrose Drinks

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