Fine Liquor—with a Sustainable Conscience
07 Jun, 2010
Today, green connoisseurs aren’t looking simply for sustainably grown food but also for the additional accoutrements that must accompany a fine meal. There are already a number of vineyards producing sustainably grown and manufactured wines (see Organic Connections May–June 2009); and now one company called the GreenBar Collective is creating vodka and other fine liquors that are not only made from totally sustainable ingredients but are packaged to give back to the environment as well.
While there is a strong trend toward organic and sustainably produced goods, in this case it wasn’t such a trend—or for that matter marketing or sales projections—that led the GreenBar Collective to decide they should go in a sustainable direction. It was actually a matter of conscience.
“It’s not like there was some sort of market study that told us to do this,” said GreenBar co-founder Litty Mathew. “We started out as a company called Modern Spirits in the conventional space. We used fresh produce in all our infused vodkas, so we worked very closely with farmers at our local farmers’ market. Through interacting with them, we realized that some of them had an interest in becoming certified organic.”
From talking to various growers, GreenBar came to understand just how much land it took to produce their products. For one bottle of the artisan vodka that they were making—or for any bottle of grain vodka that anyone else makes—it requires 23 square feet of land.
“It’s a very agriculturally intensive product,” Mathew explained. “Many of our farmers had a wish to go organic because they wanted to pass their farms on to their kids in good condition, and we thought we’d like to do something similar. Since our product did utilize so many resources, we wanted to keep our land clean for this indulgence—for that’s what alcohol is. If we could do our part to keep that land free of genetically modified organisms, pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, then that’s what we wanted to do.”
Hence, their TRU Vodka products—and their entire line—are now made solely from sustainable ingredients. The wheat for the vodka is organically grown in Idaho and Wyoming and sent through organic millers and distillers as well. GreenBar’s Crusoe Rums are produced from organic, fair trade sugarcane, and their Fruitlab liqueurs are made from hand-selected organic whole ingredients.
“In order for us to be USDA certified it has to be organic at every step,” said Mathew.
But it didn’t stop there. A fine vodka bottle is traditionally manufactured from very thick glass, much of the time weighing half a pound just by itself. Knowing that their packaging created quite an impact on the environment, GreenBar lightened their TRU Vodka bottles by 25 percent. The labels are now made from corn fiber and printed with soy ink. The shipping boxes are formed from 35 percent recycled cardboard (the most recycled material that can be used for cardboard and have it still maintain its strength).
Click on any image above to see a larger version.
Probably best of all, for each bottle of TRU Vodka sold, the company plants a tree—and so far 70,000 trees have been planted. GreenBar has near-future plans to put the remainder of their product line on the same one-tree-per-bottle program.
Having put in all this effort, GreenBar decided to request that a third-party expert evaluate all the factors and numbers that went into their TRU Vodka production, packaging and shipping, and establish exactly what their carbon footprint was per bottle. This figure now appears on every bottle.
Such a move seems to be a brand-new practice, especially for a liquor manufacturer. “I believe we are one of few US products with a carbon footprint right on the label,” Litty said. “We did a study, having someone else look into our practices and tell us what our carbon footprint was. Since we plant a tree for every bottle that we sell, we had another study done on the planted trees, based on factors such as what kind of tree it was, when the tree made it to maturation, what percentage died off, and more. When all this information came together, we discovered that our product was radically carbon negative.”
This is almost an understatement, for, based on all the data involved, each bottle of TRU Vodka is actually 760 times carbon negative. (For a look at the complete study data, visit www.greenbar.biz/how-green-is-tru.html.)
Now green connoisseurs can utilize artisan vodka and fine liqueurs to compliment their parties and dinners. But, more importantly, other manufacturers can take the example set by GreenBar in ensuring their products not only utilize sustainably grown ingredients but actually give back to the environment as well.
To find out more about the GreenBar product line, visit www.greenbar.biz.