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Reducing the Carbon Footprint of Wine

Wine on tap - lowering your wine-drinking carbon footprintDo you love wine, but are also concerned about its carbon footprint? The carbon footprint of wine includes production, packaging, and transportation. Wine is grown using energy intensive petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides, processed through heavy machinery and packaged using glass, corks, glue and labels. That heavy bottle then needs to travel thousands of miles before it ends up in your glass. Best case scenario, you recycle the bottle again, and it is melted down and reused through another round of energy intensive production and transportation.

Although some experts argue that grapes do not require extensive amounts of fertilizer like many other crops, the amount involved in wine production is definitely not negligible given the size of the industry. Increasingly, wine producers understand these negative effects and are choosing organic methods for their wine production.

Lighter packaging can also reduce the carbon footprint of wine since it takes more fuel to transport heavier cargo. Select wineries are using alternative packaging materials that help with fuel efficiency. Tetra packs, boxed wine, and wine in a keg are all ways to increase fuel efficiency when transporting wine. We especially like wine on tap, because the packaging can be reused (which is always better than recycling).

However, the bulk of emissions associated with wine are a result of the transportation process. One study showed that over 95 percent of American wine is produced on the West Coast, but over 66 percent of Americans live east of the Mississippi. This means that the wine, which is most likely produced in Napa, must travel across the country to consumers. Due to America’s geography, the cheapest and easiest way to ship wines is by trucking. Air cargo is the fastest, but it is expensive and the worst offender in carbon emissions. Shipping by sea produces the lowest emissions, but it is time consuming and direct routes are not always possible.

Given all this, how can you reduce the carbon footprint on your wine drinking:

  1. Drink less, but drink higher quality, cutting down on production without cutting into your enjoyment.
  2. Choose organic, to remove the footprint of fertilizers, and, hopefully, the loss of carbon sequestering soil.
  3. Encourage your local business to carry wine on tap, which is great for footprint. It helps by decreasing packaging, increasing the efficiency of transportation (less moving glass in circles), decreasing printed labels, eliminating the need for corks, and drastically reducing spoilage.
  4. Buy local, or make your own!

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Caitlin Owyang is an eco-conscious individual who enjoys Pinot Noir. In her free time, she does online outreach for Micro Matic, a leader in the wine on tap industry.

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