Sussing out sustainability

Nate Brown

Nate Brown

24 October 2019

From recyclable glue to wind turbines, some ground-breaking businesses are committed to reducing the drinks industry's expensive carbon footprints and building a greener future. Imbibe and WSET teamed up to discuss how the pioneers of this new, sustainable attitude, do their bit for the environment

Spearheaded by the likes of TrashTiki, a new taboo swept across the drinks industry in recent years. Following videos of poorly turtles, the new cardinal sin was the continued use of single use straws. A new enemy had arrived, and along with it a new mission. Those that disregarded the peer pressure to switch to eco-friendly alternatives were berated.

However, straws aren’t really the big issue. Many practices have been much more culpable for our industry’s historically poor green rating. Limes imported by plane or sea from Mexico, Rum shipped from the Caribbean, and glacial melt water used to cut spirits before bottling are just a few examples of an expensive carbon footprint.

There has, fortunately, been a major change in the wider hospitality outlook in the last two years. A new environmental responsibility has taken hold. A selection of pioneers of this new, greener attitude took the stage at Imbibe’s Sussing Out Sustainability seminar in WSET’s Bermondsey site to discuss how they do their bit for the environment.

'Our business exists to tackle the sustainability problem,' says Ella Shone from Rubies in the Rubble, a condiment company exclusively making use of waste fruits and vegetables. She points out that around one third of all packaged food doesn’t make it to our plates. One clear process employed by Rubies is to make interesting and delicious products first and foremost, branding them enticingly with a fun and positive image – a million miles away from the doom and gloom of the harrowing alternative to a greener planet. 'All the wasted and surplus food in the UK has a market value of £1.2bn,' she adds.

Of course, one aspect highlighted by the panel was indeed the cost saving potential of a more efficient use of ingredients. Mark Low of Mr Lyan’s Creative Studio proposes using waste or by-products to make new and interesting garnishes, an aspect of cocktails that is coming under increased scrutiny as a frivolous addition to a serve.

'Efficiency goes hand in hand with our cost savings,' says Peter Statham, sustainability manager at Carlsberg UK (the very existence of this job title is testament to the seriousness of the movement) citing the use of less glass in Carlsberg bottles resulting in a huge manufacturing saving, cheaper transport costs, and an enormous carbon saving.

Statham was demonstrating the new Carlsberg Snap-Pack that uses a glue (which brushes off in the recycling process) rather than the plastic rings to hold the six-pack together. He added that Carlsberg as a company is aiming to have zero emissions by 2030.

This was a sentiment furthered by the impressive work at the family owned Lanchester Wines. Sustainability is at the core of what this company does, putting all other producers to shame. The estate is powered by three wind turbines, producing so much green electricity that only 60% is needed on site, with the remaining 40% being fed back into the national grid providing enough energy to power 800+ homes. Furthermore, the heating is provided by geothermal heat pumps, drawing the necessary water from disused coal mines.

Currently, a new bottling plant is under construction, which will become the world’s most sustainable wine bottling facility, powered entirely by renewable wind and solar power, and heated by the wine’s own fermentation. 'Everything we do pays back,' says Emma Campbell – a truly remarkable operation. If any producer wants to see an example of how to operate with an environmental conscious, then look no further.

Further down the chain, Low also says how at Mr Lyan they 'work with the credentials of suppliers,' acknowledging that the hospitality industry, and the food and drinks market as a whole, must work together to have a sustained affect on climate change. 'It is down to education,' he summarises, 'large scale agriculture can be many times more efficient than smaller producers.'

But perhaps Statham said it best, 'Recognise that if you don’t do something you’ll become irrelevant.'

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