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Sustainable sipping: the other way to drink responsibly this Christmas


There is a growing awareness of the ecological impact of the food we eat, but what about the drinks we drink? We take a look at the environmental footprint of alcohol and what can be done to reduce it

There’s a reason why alcohol’s ecological footprint doesn’t rank high on the list of topics discussed at the venue: It’s sobering. “What percentage of crop diversity was lost between 1900 and 2000?” no pub quiz host ever asked. It’s 75 percentBy the way, thanks in part to the monoculture to make alcohol.

According to Mike Berners-Lee, author of How Bad Are Bananas ?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything, producing a pint of locally brewed draft beer emits 300g of CO2, the equivalent of driving a car 1.5 miles. Prepare a liter of the substance also requires about 350 liters of water, whose demand will exceed supply by 40 percent in a decade, according to the UN.

The industry has a hangover to deal with, so, however, most homeowners would let go of drinkers who mention the study from japan which identified alcohol as a key factor in determining a household’s carbon footprint.

But don’t remove the fizz from the ice just yet. Several beverage brands are firmly challenging the status quo.

How to drink sustainably

Alcohol has an ecological hangover to deal with, but don’t remove the ice just yet. Image: Adam Jaime

“The industry really needs a change when it comes to sustainability,” says Tim Etherington-Judge, co-founder of Avallen, a Calvados brand that aspires to be the most sustainable liquor in the world. “We need action now and the public really understands that it is time for companies to do it because our politicians will not.”

Sustainability was the main motivation for Etherington-Judge and co-founder Stephanie Jordan when they set out to create their business. “When we sat down and had this kind of blank sheet of paper, we had no ambition to create a particular category of spirit,” Etherington-Judge explains. “[But] We could ask ourselves the question: is this the most sustainable option for the business? “

They searched for the greenest raw material to produce alcohol using four metrics: carbon emissions; biodiversity; water use; and use of pesticides and fertilizers. The result? Apples beat sugar cane, cereals, grains, potatoes, and grapes in each.

Using knowledge gained from their previous roles at beverage producer Diageo, the couple decided to make Calvados, a highly regarded apple brandy from Normandy, France. This allowed them to minimize their environmental impact as the spirit is created using only apples and water.

How to drink sustainably

Avallen apples are traditionally grown in biodiverse orchards. Image: Skylar Jean

They sourced the fruit from farms within 12 miles of the distillery and their labels were made from excess apple pulp mixed with recycled paper fibers. Its locally sourced bottles are still the lightest on the market, reducing transport emissions, and its apples are grown in the traditional way in biodiverse orchards.

“There are about 10 different species of apples in a single orchard, plus the meadow in between,” Etherington-Judge says. “And that grass is not allowed to be mowed during the growing season. So you have the hedges outside, it’s a beautifully biodiverse system. “

The result is an award-winning spirit produced organically (won a gong for best product in the Sustainability Awards 2020 PEA) with a wonderful flavor of fresh apples and a floral honeysuckle nose. But the couple is not over. There are plans to make Avallen positive for carbon and biodiversity. “There are so many companies that are negative and the only way to achieve that balance is for some of us to go beyond being neutral,” Etherington-Judge notes.

The industry really needs a change when it comes to sustainability.

Cooper King Distillery in Yorkshire, which uses renewable energy to make gin and whiskey, is another beverage brand that is pushing the limits of sustainability. The Circular Distillery, another PEA award winner, is part of the Yorkshire LEP Consortium, a network of companies working together to tackle the climate crisis, strengthen the local economy and improve people’s lives.

“Our goal is to make Yorkshire carbon neutral by 2034 and carbon negative by 2040, which will support our county’s recovery as we move beyond the Covid-19 crisis to create a greener, fairer economy. and stronger, “says co-founder Chris Jaume. .

An apiary at Cooper King Distillery

An apiary at Cooper King Distillery. Image: Cooper King Distillery

In Scotland, Nc’nean Distillery has similar aspirations. It uses local organic barley, recycles water and feeds its stills with a biomass boiler.

“I strongly believe that sustainability, but particularly carbon and biodiversity, is one of the biggest issues facing our generation,” says founder Annabel Thomas. “Business has a great responsibility to help address this and it seemed to me that no one at Scotch was taking the problem seriously enough.”

Ed Faulkner, co-founder of Sapling Spirits in London, which plants a tree for every bottle of vodka it sells, says the beverage industry has lagged behind the food industry when it comes to sustainability. “This is changing rapidly,” adds Faulkner, who says small brands are leading the way. “Beverage manufacturers around the world are innovating to produce high-quality, sustainably produced alcohol.”

Five ways to drink more sustainably

  1. Drink apples: apples have minimal environmental impact compared to other raw materials used to produce alcohol. Try Calvados, cider or pommeau.
  2. Drink in season: Use seasonal ingredients for cocktails and save the mojitos and daiquiris for the summer.
  3. Drink locally: Local beers and wines have significantly lower transport emissions than those imported from elsewhere.
  4. Choose cans instead of bottles – Bottles have a significant carbon footprint. Instead, buy canned beer and boxed wine.
  5. Be adventurous – Get old bottles out of the back of your drink cabinet. You can find a gem, reduce your consumption, and save some money.

How to drink sustainably

How to drink it

Avallen and tonic

50ml of Avallen
150ml of your favorite tonic

Serve with plenty of ice and garnish with a fresh apple slice.

Lead Image: Helena Lopes



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