What's the Carbon Footprint of my Wine?
Updated: Aug 4, 2020
In this series of articles, we explore the carbon footprints (and environmental impact) of a handful of everyday actions, helping you learn about some of the small changes we can make and the positive effect we can have if we commit to making these together. After kicking off this series by looking into the carbon footprint of your online deliveries and laundry, we move on to the environmental footprint of… your wine!
Relatively little attention has been given to the wine industry’s carbon footprint, mostly because it isn’t as significant in comparison to that of others... but for those curious, we did the research...and here’s the verdict: Unlike the carbon footprint of many other products (i.e. clothing, food), the largest contributor to emissions are primarily from the packing and transportation of wine.
Spanish company Grupo ARCE wanted to get an idea of the impact of wine and the exact breakdown and tracked Verdejo wine, a variety of wine grape that has long been grown in the Rueda region of Spain, from production to consumption - and found that the average bottle of wine releases about 1.28 kg of carbon into the atmosphere over its lifetime (around the same as a 5-minute car journey).
But what questions can you ask when choosing the most planet-friendly bottle?
Q1. Where is this wine from?
Transportation is where the emissions of wine are highest. Emissions from air shipments are the worst, the next is trucks, with container ships having the least impact. As wine is only produced in specific parts of the world, the wine you love may have traveled great distances to arrive on a shelf near you.
The differences in the emissions produced by varied forms of transportation also plays a role in the carbon emissions of wine. If you live in San Francisco, you can get your wine from the many California vineyards; but if you live in New York, it may be more environmentally friendly to buy wine sent by container ship from Bordeaux to a port in New Jersey than to buy American with a wine from Napa Valley, which would be trucked across the country. More on that here...
Q2. How was the wine made?
Generally, people believe wine is a natural product that comes from grapes grown with sunshine, soil, water, and human’s cultivating their growth, then crushed, fermented, and bottled. Wine-making and wine itself has the image of being a naturally produced beverage, but this isn’t necessarily true...
When it comes to organic farming however, the use of chemicals is strictly controlled by law. The pesticides and chemical fungicides that the conventional wine farmer would have access to are prohibited and the focus in organically grown grapes is to concentrate on growing a healthy vine that is able to withstand pests and feed itself naturally, instead of relying on pesticides. This means that an organic farmer will work to develop healthy soil and a balanced ecosystem within their vineyard. If you want to learn more, here is a great article that explains the viticultural logistics behind a sustainably developed vineyard.
Something else to think about is whether the grapes were hand-harvested, which results in less emissions from machines and erosion. Beyond this, whether or not the wines were produced in a facility that uses solar energy or wind power can also be an important factor. Many wines may have this information on the label, but it doesn’t hurt for you to do a little homework on the behind-the-scenes production of your wine.
Q3. What is the wine packaged in?
The creation of bag-in-box wine generally means that a three litre box of wine has a smaller carbon footprint than a bottle, when you break it down per glass. But if you’re determined to drink a bottle of wine, rather than boxed wine, there's still something you can do! Pick it up, and evaluate how heavy it feels... Some wineries are using lighter-weight glass, which then means less fuel is needed to transport bottles!
So, all in all, our advice when it comes to reducing the environmental impact of your wine: Drink wines produced locally, if possible. If you can, find out where your wine came from and how it was transported.
There are no perfectly sustainable wines. It isn’t always so cut and dry, as there are several factors to consider. How was it grown? The more eco-friendly wine options consider a few factors of the wine production: whether it’s organic, biodynamic, and produced in a vineyard that practices wine grape growing in a socially responsible way (workers conditions, waste management, etc). You can find some great guides here, here, and here!
Interested in learning more about your carbon footprint? Check out our app Capture - we can help you calculate your monthly guideline allowance, based on recommendations from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, then balance emissions at the end of each month through verified nature-based offsets. Simply search 'carbon footprint and CO2 tracker' to find us in your app store.
Questions? Suggestions on the next ‘What’s the carbon footprint of’ article? Let us know! Follow us via Instagram @thecaptureapp or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!