Wednesday, February 6, 2013

One For The Environment

This post was inspired by a good friend of mine who's working as a consultant for Greentizen, a South American start-up that seeks "to leverage the power of Social Networks to promote and coordinate environmentally friendly actions." Check it out!

As a wine blogger, father and husband, it is quite challenging to strike a balance between the tasting of hundreds of high-quality wines and a lifelong duty to my daughter and wife to keep our household’s carbon footprint at a minimal level. Brace yourself because an average bottle of wine, according to Mike Berners-Lee’s How Bad Are Bananas?: The Carbon Footprint of Everything, contributes approximately 1040 grams of CO2e to the environment with about 70 percent of it being produced during the grapes’ harvest, vinification and bottling. If, like my wife and me, you consume two bottles a week, your yearly carbon footprint from tickling your palate with Dionysus’ drink of choice translates to a 225 kilometer drive in a run-of-the-mill car. Of course, this begs the question, what can you do to reduce your carbon footprint from uncorking a bottle of wine? 

Mike Berners-Lee, an expert in carbon foot-printing, and Tyler Colman (aka Dr. Vino), a noted wine blogger and university professor, offer several suggestions, some better suited than others for the environmentally-conscious oenophile. 

In my opinion, Berners-Lee’s best proposal is to consume locally-produced wine, a habit that “could cut the footprint by 25 per cent” by reducing ground, air and maritime transportation. For example, if you live in Uruguay, instead of picking up a bottle of Argentine Malbec or Chilean Carmenere, selections that probably made it to your local cava via land, choose the local Tannat, a variety originally from southwestern France that has become Uruguay’s national grape. For one, I’ve embraced this practice as I tend to prefer Cypriot wines over flashier options that have racked up long distances to make it to our island.  Besides, in times of financial difficulties, local industry—be it here in Nicosia or in Montevideo—needs our support. 

Another good suggestion is to opt for organic and “natural” wines over conventional ones. Both organic and natural wines avoid the use of herbicides, pesticides, fertilizers and other artificial chemical additives, and many of them rely on hand-picked grapes instead of mechanically harvested ones. Per Dr. Colman, “organic farming has lower greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity than conventional farming,” even though the difference is not as drastic as one would expect. 

On the downside, buying boxed or Tetra Pak wines, which according to Berners-Lee cuts carbon emissions “by a factor of five,” limits your choices and leaves a lot to be desired in terms of quality. Non-discerning consumers who are looking for simple and affordable everyday wines could very well switch to these environment-friendly recipients, but I don’t envision myself or many aficionados giving up elegant and complex bottled wines and the fanfare that involve their opening. Albeit, as more producers adopt these containers and start packaging higher quality wines, I could adapt for the sake of my daughter’s future. For now, though, it’s best to consume a Magnum (1.5L) or Jeroboam (3L) rather than the standard 750ml bottle given the lower glass-to-wine ratio, or wines by companies like, for example, Palo Alto and Emiliana in Chile that have switched to eco-friendly lightweight bottles. 

Of course, at the end of the day, the most obvious contribution to Mother Earth would be to curtail your overall wine consumption, but where is the fun in that?

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