Monday, December 1, 2008

Sustainable Christmas Wine

If you're looking for a sustainable Christmas gift, Eleven wines are ideal. We source from vineyards that are sustainably farmed, we use packaging that is wholly recyclable or renewable, and the winery itself is carbon-neutral.

For more sustainable gift ideas check out the Sustainable Bainbridge Holiday Guide.

Making the winery carbon-neutral was easy, since we use so little energy. Being located in the Puget Sound area, having really good insulation is just about all that is needed to maintain the winery at a cool temperature year-round. All of our on-site energy usage is electric, no gas, which in Washington means most of it is from hydro power. We purchased carbon credits to offset our on-site usage as well as all of our driving, including wine deliveries and trucking of grapes. In fact, our entire household is now carbon-neutral, not just the winery. It was very reasonably priced. Find out how you can go carbon-neutral at Native Energy (just one of a plethora of sources of carbon credits).

Many wineries are now using screw-caps or plastic corks to seal their bottles, but we continue to use natural cork. Why? In addition to the fact that a top-quality cork provides just as good a seal as a screw cap (and way better than a plastic cork after the first few years), natural corks are biodegradable, renewable, and (as though that weren't enough) cork farms are old-growth forests, providing habitat for many species of birds and other animals, some of them endangered. Audubon magazine published a brilliant article on this topic, and even went so far as to encourage its members to only drink wines sealed with a cork. It turns out that while there is no shortage of cork (that's a lie promulgated by promoters of synthetic closures to justify their actions), wine corks are the only use of cork that pays enough to keep cork farmers in business. No wine corks, no cork forests. And when they're done being wine corks, the cork can go on to be other things. We save all of our used corks and send them to Korks 4 Kids, which sells them to recyclers and donates the proceeds to children's charities.

The other parts of our package may not save the world, but at least they don't screw it up. Our tin capsules are printed with water-based ink, and the manufacturer will buy them back from you for scrap if you send them in (or send them to us and we'll take care of it - we save all the capsules from bottles we open). The bottles themselves are glass, which is completely natural and recyclable, though even glass is under attack - some wineries are switching to plastic and claiming it's eco-friendly. This is so utterly ludicrous I'm not sure how they can spout this nonsense with a straight face. Like with synthetic closures, the real reason for their shift is to save money (in this case shipping costs, since plastic bottles are lighter than glass). But they're creating mountains of marginally-recyclable garbage and using up non-renewable resources to do it - and ignoring the potential health risks of putting wine into plastic bottles. And finally, our labels are paper, made from trees, which have a well-documented habit of growing back...

We try hard to recycle everything that comes into the winery, in addition to making our package as eco-friendly as possible. More on that in future posts.


Garth said...

Nice post, Matt. I'm intrigued by the tin capsules; we've tried beeswax dipping (WAY to labor intensive) and champagne foils (too big/long) and are also looking at beer foils (only available in lots of 30,000!). The tin capsules seem like a possible compromise; how does their unit cost compare?

Matt said...

Tin capsules run $0.12 - $0.24, depending on the current price of tin. They generally come in boxes of 2,500 or so. Cheers, .M.