Distillers throughout the world are learning that sustainability is not just in the best interest of the environment — it’s also what’s best for business. Whether this is a conclusion drawn after years of operation or a purpose from the outset, being mindful of the environment helps distilleries cut back on long term costs, appeal to new markets and create a positive work atmosphere.
At Striped Pig Distillery in Charleston, SC, sustainability was top priority from the beginning.
“[The owners] started working with farms before they even began working on the actual distillery so that they could find the most sustainable farm and product to make our spirits,” says Juliana Harless, the distillery’s marketing director.
To keep waste low, the good people at Striped Pig use cuts that would otherwise go unused to clean the distillery floors. They give their mash to local farmers to use as animal feed. To save energy, the distillery itself is open air and doesn’t use heat or air conditioning. “It can be brutal at times, but heating or cooling such a large space would use so much energy,” says Harless. “It's worth a little sweat or an extra jacket in the winter to reduce our footprint.” Skylights in the distillery also allow them to cut back on energy used for overhead lighting. “When it's a beautiful, sunny Charleston day, what's the point in turning all of those big lights on?” she says.
At Striped Pig, taking care of the environment is, among other things, an act of gratitude.
“Thinking about the world today and all the craziness that's going on can drive you mad. We're fortunate to do something that we love — make real, locally sourced, good spirits,” says Harless. “And we have a great time doing it. With all the worries in the world plus all of the terrible things happening to the environment, the least we can do is give back and help where we can.”
Similarly, Los Angeles distillery Greenbar set out with intentions to make spirits sustainably, considering everything from the ingredients that go into their products to the packaging of each spirit.
Greenbar makes a bevy of spirits using entirely organic ingredients. “Quite honestly, we do this for flavor more than sustainability,” says co-owner Melkon Khosrovian, “but they're two sides of the same coin.” The distillery also uses lightweight glass bottles and 100% post-consumer waste recycled paper labels for all of its products. And for each bottle of Greenbar spirits sold, the business plants a tree in an effort to counter carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. “We've planted more than half a million trees since 2008, and they, combined with organic ingredients and lightweight packaging, make Greenbar spirits so radically carbon negative that a cocktail with two ounces of our spirits will make the drinker carbon negative for a day,” he says.
Greenbar hopes that its sustainability efforts will inspire consumers to be more conscientious in the future. “Small but persistent efforts to do the right thing can add up quickly,” says Khosrovian. “We only have this one world.”
But sustainability isn’t just for small-scale distilleries, major corporate spirit brands have the means to make a radical impact and influence the industry simply due to their size.
Bacardi Limited has been setting a winning example of sustainability at the corporate level with the Good Spirited: Building a Sustainable Future campaign, which launched in 2014. But sustainability is really nothing new to the company. They started assessing its environmental footprint in 2006, and since doing so, they’ve managed to cut back energy consumption by more than a quarter and cut water use by more than half. They’ve achieved these benchmarks by making changes across the board.
Windpower is used for Bacardi Rum in Puerto Rico, hydroenergy from rivers in the Italian Alps for Martini Vermouth, and a Green Certified distillery for Bombay Sapphire gin. Waters from the Dewar’s Scotch process filters naturally through reeds to return to Scotland’s River Tay. Botanicals from Martini vermouth are recycled into fertilizer and bedding for livestock in Switzerland and Martini employees in Italy use bikes at their production site.
But now, they’re striving for even more ambitious goals: responsible sourcing, streamlined packaging and greater operational efficiencies are part of the company’s goals to be met by 2022. They’ll continue to focus on reducing water use and greenhouse gas emissions and on sourcing from sustainable farms, but perhaps most ambitiously, Bacardi is striving to eliminate landfill waste at all of its production sites by 2022.
Even some of the simple changes made by Bacardi have had profoundly positive impacts due to their size. Eduardo Vallado, vice president of supply chain and manufacturing for Bacardi in the Americas speaks of a “No Straw” campaign as a particularly noteworthy success. Beginning with the regional headquarters in Coral Gables and the Bombay Sapphire gin distillery in Hampshire, England, the company eliminated straws at in-house events. This philosophy spread to their other locations. “The internal response and commitment to take the ‘No Straws’ pledge from other Bacardi offices, distilleries and brand homes was immediate,” says Vallado. “Within two weeks, all brand homes and visitor centers made the commitment. By getting rid of straws at its in-house events, Bacardi will prevent an estimated 650,000 straws and stirrers from entering landfills each year.”
These goals extend outside of their offices, distilleries and distribution sites — Bacardi encourages their employees to cut back on their own impacts by enabling them to track their personal progress at home and at work, encouraging them to do everything from taking shorter showers to taking alternative transportation to simply turning out lights when they leave the room.
Ultimately, it’s standing behind a common goal that makes sustainability efforts most worthwhile in a distillery. “The most valuable part of this project has been the teamwork and spirit demonstrated by the entire Bacardi distillery team,” Vallado says.