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Thanks to everyone who joined us on World Food Day last week! It was great to see so many Food Tankers in person and virtually join our urgent conversations about protecting water resources. Check out the recap HERE.
But water isn’t the only beverage many of us drink. For those of us—like me—who enjoy a good cocktail or glass of wine, we have a powerful role as consumers to play in creating a more sustainable spirits industry.
When we’re talking about wine, beer, distilled spirits, or other fermented drinks, we must remember that we’re talking about agricultural products!
The grapes, grains, and other crops that become alcoholic beverages—and the production process itself—all have environmental footprints that can’t be ignored. Creating one liter of beer can guzzle more than 40 liters of water, one study from the United Kingdom finds. Another analysis determined that, per liter of spirit distilled in 2020, the average producer emitted the equivalent of about 1.8 pounds of carbon dioxide.
And climate change is affecting how we imbibe. Our most recent Food Tank book list highlighted the book Crushed: How a Changing Climate Is Altering the Way We Drink, in which writer Brian Freedman explores how extreme weather events, from wildfires to floods to hail storms, are threatening grape and grain harvests.
This means it’s even more important to uplift folks who are doing the right thing. “Support the producers who are supporting the planet. It’s impossible to overstate the importance of that,” Freedman says.
Companies are tackling sustainability by upcycling food waste, transitioning to circular packaging, and working with growers that are using more sustainable agricultural practices to produce ingredients.
I want to take a moment to highlight some pretty inspiring examples:
In Italy, Terracotta makes natural wine from native grapes grown on their certified biodynamic farm; they also produce kiwis and extra virgin olive oil.
In Sweden, SPILL, by Gotland Spirits, is a spirit brand made entirely from surplus food. Their signature vodka is made from carbohydrate food waste, so new grains aren’t grown. They also produce a coffee liqueur from rescued coffee waste and a limoncello made from ugly lemons.
In Japan, Rise & Win Brewing is committed to zero-waste by using microbes to decompose solid waste from their brewing process.
In Mexico, Sombra uses organic agave to create sustainable mezcal. They purchase the crops from local farmers at fair prices and use a variety of other low-impact processes.
In the U.S., Patagonia Provisions is partnering with 11 breweries to help them develop a new beer made with Kernza, a perennial crop which can help to protect soil from erosion and improve soil structure.
In Brazil, Novo Fogo is a cachaça distillery that uses minimally processed sugarcane grown with no chemicals—and because they’re on a slope, they don’t need motorized pumps to move liquid.
In Kenya, Procera is the world’s first gin company to use an Indigenous African juniper species, which they harvest within 50 miles of their distillery in Nairobi. They also work to restore forests and protect them from poachers.
There are so many producers who are finding creative and sustainable approaches to biodiversity, carbon-neutrality, and procurement. I could spend all day telling you more stories!
In fact, we’ve published many of these stories of sustainable sips at FoodTank.com. Here’s a round-up we put together just this month, and here’s another article of even more success stories from last year.
Even when you’re not imbibing—or if you don’t drink alcohol at all—I still encourage you to consider the climate when choosing beverages. Companies like Drop Bear Beer (a solar-powered, carbon-neutral, non-alcoholic brewery) and Tractor Beverage Company (a farmer-founded, low-waste soda company) are showing what a greener future looks like for all drinks.
Part of my family is Jewish, and when we toast, we say “L’Chaim!” It means “to life!” So join me in a toast. Lift up your water cups, soda cans, wine glasses—I’m lifting my coffee mug—and let’s toast to life:
To biodiverse plant life, grown with respect for the planet. To farm animals and meat alike raised humanely and sustainably. To the lives of our neighbors and fellow human beings, who all deserve access to nourishing food, water, and justice.
To the life of the planet—which we must actively choose to prioritize, every single day.
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Photo courtesy of Josh Olade, Unsplash