The environmentally responsible wine connoisseur
Each year, U.S. consumers purchase more than 300 million cases of wine — that adds up to more than 3.5 billion wine bottles!
But we only recycle 30% of those. That’s a lot of glass going into landfills that could be recycled and reused. What can you do? Become a sustainable wine drinker.
The sustainable wine connoisseur
Sustainable practices incorporate the 3 E’s of sustainability – Environmentally sound, Economically feasible and social Equity. Here are a few 3 E suggestions to get you started.
Environmentally sound wine suggestions
Recycle those corks. Some wine shops and wineries already have programs in place, so check with your favorite wine venue to find out if they recycle. If not, suggest a cork-recycling program. The largest in the U.S. is ReCork (www.recork.org), which has collected more than 70 million corks, so far. The company has sites around the country for just that purpose. Unfortunately, there are no collection centers near here, but you can ship corks to them. Shipping is free when you send in at least 15 pounds of corks. (You can reach that number easily if you coax your wine-loving friends and local winery to save their corks, too.)
Take a cloth wine bag and another bag for shopping items when you visit a winery. This eliminates paper and packaging waste. If you always purchase a case of wine, bring the box back to be filled again with your next purchase.
Refuse paper receipts and ask for an electronic one. Many stores now offer this as an option. Also, customers should check to see if wine tasting notes can be accessed on a cell phone or tablet instead of using a paper tasting sheet. Both suggestions cut down on paper waste, which cuts down on trees being … well, cut down.
Economically feasible wine suggestion
Instead of buying one or two bottles of wine at a time, purchase wine by the case. There could be a discount (usually 10 percent per 12 bottles), and you will be limiting the number of trips you make (therefore, saving fuel) to “grab something for dinner.”
Social equity wine suggestion
Wine and beer bottles are considered container glass, which means they can be recycled, if your community accepts them. Check with your department of sanitation and find out more about local recycling guidelines. Take it a step further and check with the local winery or wine shop to see if they have a wine bottle-recycling program in place. Environmentally conscious wineries may offer incentives such as a free tasting or a certain percentage off wine purchases when you return those empty bottles.
Wineries can be environmentally friendly, too
Sustainable vineyard practices conserve the ecological balance of our planet by avoiding the depletion of natural resources. This can be equivalent to leaving a winery or vineyard in better condition for the next generation, than it was when it originally started. Wineries can be more socially responsible by conserving and recycling materials, offering cloth wine bags for customers’ use and eliminating paper receipts. Sustainability in vineyard practices may involve using sheep to weed around the vines, thus controlling mowing; provide nesting boxes for birds that feed on vineyard pests; and physically monitoring vines for bugs, mold and fungus so chemicals don’t have to be sprayed on the fruit. Wineries should return bulk containers like plastic barrels and shipping boxes to suppliers for reuse, and recycle those bottles, corks and barrels.
Earth Day is celebrated April 22 each year as a reminder to encourage environmental awareness around the world. If we all do our part, we can become more sustainable wine connoisseurs and leave the world a better place for the next generation of wine lovers.
By Joy Neighbors
Joy Neighbors, from eastern Illinois, knows the wine industry well. She writes a weekly wine blog, has judged national wine competitions, and speaks nationally and internationally. Follow her blog at http://joysjoyofwine.blogspot.com.