Each year, we take a moment to highlight those in the wine, food and beverage industries working to effect positive environmental change. Today, we take a look at six forward-thinking producers invested in the future of the Earth, be it through environmentally conscious alternative packaging, ecosystem preservation or partnering with nonprofits in an effort to reduce plastic in our oceans.
Zirkova Vodka and Oceanic Standard
Launching in the U.S. last year, Zirkova vodka has made a name for itself not just through the quality of its spirits, but also their 501(c)(3) charitable arm, We Are One+Together. Through this non-profit Zirkova supports social activism like the March for Women and #MeToo movements, and contributes 10% of their gross revenue to a number of charities including the American Red Cross, March for Science and Rainbow Railroad.
A new initiative from the distillery’s charitable arm has partnered them with fellow non-profit Oceanic Global to launch the Oceanic Standard initiative, a free toolkit aimed at bar and restaurant owners, showing them actionable steps to scale back and eventually eliminate single-use plastics, like straws. The kit is available for free online, and lays out an easy roadmap for reduction of plastic waste in the hospitality industry, along with a number of other sustainable food and operation practices, from carbon-neutrality to composting.
A large portion of this initiative is centered on the elimination of plastic straw use, which is increasingly becoming the standard in many major cities. Beginning with the restaurant Freehold in Brooklyn, New York, who hosted the launch of the Oceanic Standard initiative in March of this year, the number of restaurants committed has already swelled to 10, including NYC hotspots Shuka, Vic’s and Flora Bar, among others. —Dylan Garret, Associate Digital Editor
Alpenfire Cider and the Peninsula Trails Coalition
If you are looking to be the crunchiest, hippy hipster at the drum circle, move your devil sticks and make room in your rucksack for a cold bag of Alpenfire Discovery Trail Cider. Alpenfire has partnered with the Peninsula Trails Coalition on this dry, still cider made with heirloom apples. It’s an easy, on-the-go drink that’s great for picnics and barbecues, packaged in a 1.5 liter, BPA-free recyclable bag. Its light weight isn’t only great for a hike, it’s great for the Earth—each bag offers an 80% lower carbon footprint compared to glass bottle packaging.
You can also feel good about a percentage of each cider sold will go to expanding the Olympic Discovery Trail, as well as trail care and maintenance. —Carrie Dykes, Tasting Coordinator
The Willamette Valley Oak Accord
The connection between Willamette Valley wines and oak trees might not be immediately apparent, but these roots run deep. Mimi Casteel, winegrower for Hope Well Wines, explains that the health of the oak trees is crucial to the health of the area’s entire ecosystem. Their roots prevent erosion and aid in water retention. Oaks also support healthy animal life, microscopic organisms and grasses. Essentially, these towering trees are at the heart of what makes Willamette wine, Willamette wine.
However, as more and more winegrowers and producers move into the area and margins for profit grow thinner, a number are planting vines fence post to fence post, unaware of the damage they’re causing.
Education and awareness are part of the Willamette Valley Oak Accord’s mission. But Casteel, her mother, Pat Dudley of Bethel Heights Vineyard, and John Miller of Mahonia Nursery, aren’t stopping there. They’re working with growers (and, eventually, other landowners too) to assess the health of the oaks on their property, rescue saplings that might be in danger and replant trees. Miller even has a section of rescued oaks in his nursery. The Accord currently has 42 members, including esteemed producers like Brick House Vineyard, Left Coast Cellars and The Eyrie Vineyards, and continues to grow. —Layla Schlack, Senior Editor
Snoqualmie Vineyards and Electric Rosé
Over the past decade, many producers have been extending their sustainability efforts into the entire lifecycle of wine’s packaging. One way has been to replace bottles with lighter-weight, and recyclable, Tetra Pak containers or pouches, like those used by Electric Rosé, to help significantly lower fuel emissions and costs during shipping. But for diehard bottle fans, more producers can follow Washington State’s Snoqualmie Vineyards’ lead.
Over the past few years, Snoqualmie has begun using ECO bottles that are produced with 25% less glass, Rainforest Alliance-certified corks, labels and printed materials made from 100% post-consumer waste, and most recently, changed to eco-friendly capsules. After partnering with Rivercap, their wine bottles are now sealed with a polyethylene capsule made from sugar cane (a renewable resource) and water-based inks, ultimately reducing their capsules’ CO2 emissions by 80%. —Siobhan Wallace, Senior Digital Editor
Vinos Ambiz’s Recycling Mission
Spanish wine producer Vinos Ambiz takes recycling seriously. Founded in 2003, by winemaker Fabio Bartolomei as an unlicensed winery, packaging companies initially refused to deliver new bottles on account of the producer’s tenuous legal standing. As a work around, Bartolomei packaged his wines in bottles they de-labeled and sanitized themselves. To this day, the winery continues to encourage locals to return empty bottles for reuse.
After expanding beyond their own washing capabilities, in 2016 Bartolomei discovered Infinity Reutilización , a Spanish company that also collects, de-labels, sanitizes and redistributes wine bottles, to help him continue the practice. Bartolomei is also dedicated to protecting the environment in his vineyards, avoiding harmful chemical and encouraging biodiversity, while employing low-intervention winemaking techniques. —Fiona Adams, Senior Tasting Coordinator
Full Sail Brewing
From the beginning of the brewing process all the way to the end, Full Sail Brewing always has environment in mind, starting with water, the base of all beer.
At most commercial breweries, it takes six to eight gallons of water to make one gallon of beer. But Full Sails’ Meura mash filter system, along with a hot-water recovery system and other optimizations, minimizes water usage, allowing the brewery to only use three gallons of water to each gallon of beer produced. Implemented in 2011, Full Sail has been able to reduce their water consumption by 4.1 million gallons.
The Brewery also gets most of their ingredients from their backyard, including their bottles which are made locally from recycled glass. But in the true spirit of sustainability, Full Sail Brewing condensed their work week down to four days, helping them reduce energy consumption by 20%, and giving all employees a three day weekend. —Kristen Richard, Assistant Digital Editor