Cheers to sustainability!
by Eileen Opromollo and Jessica Toscano Nov 19, 2020
Sustainability has entered the lexicon of everyday, eco-conscious conversation now more than ever, and for more reasons than to protect the garnish on our favorite holiday cocktails, breweries and distilleries are amping up their game to leave less of an ecological footprint.
Whether fall moves you to imbibe your spirits for more enjoyment from seasonal favorites or help you sustain your sanity at the holiday spread, celebrate this year’s festivities with brands that reach your table through mindful, responsible means. It’s time we raise the bar on our bar!
From distilling and brewing processes to the packaging and shipping of products, distilleries and breweries utilize vast amounts of resources. According to Brewers Association, breweries alone rely on around seven barrels of water to craft a single barrel of beer. For a mainstream brand like Bud Light whose production reaches roughly 30 million barrels of beer annually, that’s about 6.5 billion gallons of water, enough to supply around 60,000 families. But these figures only represent the water required in the brewing process and don't include the amount used for cleaning, cooling, and packaging, which can lead to an upward of 7.4 billion additional gallons or more, depending on the brewery's size and yearly production.
Because the world operates on natural resources, without conservation efforts and more eco-friendly practices in place (and because of the above figures for just one brand), we run the risks of resource exhaustion and global warming, both of which can greatly impact life as we know it. This is where sustainability comes into play.
As part of the bedrock of environmental law since the 1969 National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the idea of sustainability is centered around the maintenance of natural resources for present and future generations—although it’s since been redefined to encompass environmental, social, and economic impact aka the “three pillars” of sustainable means. Today, organizations often refer to one or all three pillars when making green decisions.
For mindful companies, this usually translates to water and energy conservation practices. And while more businesses are enacting eco-friendly policies and communicating their efforts in annual reports—a nearly 70 percent report increase since 2011, according to the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index—there is no law to secure the use of these practices, which means it’s up to us to keep companies in place.
Perhaps for this reason, more than two-thirds of 1,000 U.S. consumers prefer to purchase from sustainable companies, even if that means more costly products, per a 2019 survey by applications, learning and outsourcing company Computer Generated Solutions (CGS).
In the spirit of giving 100 percent of you and about 67 percent of what Americans seek, we rounded up three brands that provide sustainable quality spirits, because you and the globe deserve it!
Wisconsin’s Death’s Door Distillery was inspired by a 2005 economic development project to restore the agriculture and local economy of the state’s Washington Island. With assistance from the Michael Fields Institute, brothers Tom and Ken Koyen selected a wheat variety, perfect for the island’s climate, and planted five acres where popular potato fields of the 1950s once resided. Nearly seven years later, in 2012, Brian Ellison founded Death’s Door Spirits, the manufacturers of gin, vodka, whisky, bourbon, and Wondermint—the world’s first and only artisan craft peppermint schnapps.
In support of local agriculture and American products, and to make their spirits possible, more than 1,000 acres of wheat is grown on the island, with barley sourced from nearby farms. Bottles for their brand, made in the U.S., cuts their carbon emissions by two tons per shipment, and 1 percent of their revenue, donated to 1% for the Planet, supports clean water initiatives for the Great Lakes.
While Wisconsin owes thanks to Death’s Door, we’re thankful, too...for their list of 26 fruity, spicy and minty recipes! Garnish your dessert table with their “Wonder Cocoa,” “Mint Mule,” and “Harvest Mule” drinks, or enjoy their strawberry and mushroom infused vodka recipe to heighten the flavor of your turkey dinner!
Namesake of inventor McClintock Young, this Maryland distillery has earned credit for using and advancing sustainable technology. Their choice of organic grains and 100 percent wind and solar energy merited the distillery top billing on the CleanChoice Energy 2017 list of favorites. [Editor’s note: Their list has since been retired.]
McClintock’s environmental impact and efforts are fully disclosed in their blog, and like a salute to Earth Day, their annual progress is shared each April. Among these practices is their “Grain to Glass” initiative: Spent grains are reused as livestock feed in local farms, and the local bay and watershed are spared tens of thousands of gallons of wastewater each year with their closed-loop cooling system and advanced tank cleaning.
This holiday season, impress guests with The Friendly Ghost Whiskey Sour. Mixed with McClintock’s Maryland-Heritage White Whiskey, this fun spin on an old favorite is the perfect blend of sweet and savory with bursts of citrus.
Although Brooklyn wasn’t cultivating potatoes like Washington Island before Death’s Door, the borough experienced its own downfall in the ’70s when its flowing line of breweries and nearly 100-year history collapsed. It would be another decade before Brooklyn Brewery first delivers their novel brew to Brooklyn bars, then another before their move to Williamsburg to open their brewhouse. But its since-then sustainability efforts have earned them a place in New York’s brewing lineage, as well as a high rank on the CleanChoice Energy 2017 list of favorites.
Brooklyn Brewery officiated its sustainability pledge in 2013 with the creation of their Green Team, but their eco-resume boasts nearly 30 years of sustainable practices. Their switch to wind energy and use of heat exchange systems, high-efficiency boilers, high-tech foam insulation, and several steam-powered components reduces, recaptures, and recreates energy. For further energy conservation, they partnered with the Arbor Day Foundation in 2016 to plant 375 acres of CO²-converting trees in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley, counteracting the electricity and natural gas use in one year’s production of 126,000 cases of 20 oz bottles and 76,000 ½ barrel kegs.