Investigating the carbon footprint of wine (bottle) vs beer and 13 more liquor types will reveal which is better not only for reducing your carbon footprint, but also for the planet.
Recent studies have shown that the carbon footprint of alcohol and chocolate is higher than previously believed.
This is because carbon footprints include emissions from both direct and indirect sources, ones that are generated immediately by production, and ones that come before and after that process, such as the harvesting and gathering of raw materials to the packaging and shipping.
Whenever several ingredients are required to make an alcoholic beverage, those ingredients need to be sourced and transported from various locations, near and far, processed, made into your favorite drink, packaged, and then transported to your local store.
This production chain generates a fair amount of carbon dioxide worldwide that, once examined closely, reveals the surprisingly large carbon footprint of wine that can be mitigated by informed buying practices.
This guide outlines the carbon footprint of alcoholic beverages, including the carbon footprint of wine and other liquors.
Comparing the Carbon Footprint of Wine (Bottle) vs Beer and 13 More Liquor Types
One commonality between wine, beer, and other liquors, in addition to fermentation, is the bottles that are used to hold it.
A bottle’s carbon footprint can easily be calculated as the energy-intensive process of molding them is similar throughout each brand. Where the carbon footprint will differ will be in the production process required to make that alcoholic beverage.
Certain tropical drinks have ingredients comprised of more fresh fruits than others, sourced unfortunately from very far away tropical countries. The simple addition of those ingredients to a cocktail will increase the carbon footprint just from the logistics alone.
|Carbon Footprint of Wine||Carbon Footprint of Beer||Liquor Brand||Carbon Footprint CO2e/liter|
|2.16 kg CO2e per liter||0.81 kg CO2e per liter||Vodka||2.19 kg CO2e per liter|
|Gin||1.3 kg CO2e per liter|
|Whiskey||2.54 kg CO2e per liter|
|Rum||3.5 kg CO2e per liter|
|Brandy||3.3 kg CO2e per liter|
|Tequila||3 kg CO2e per liter|
|Bourbon||3.3 kg CO2e per liter|
|Cognac||3.3 kg CO2e per liter|
|Sake||3.3 kg CO2e per liter|
|Cosmopolitan||366g CO2e per drink|
|Pina Colada||690g CO2e per drink|
|Long Island Iced Tea||318g CO2e per drink|
|Mojito||230g CO2e per drink|
Even without being bottled, exotic drinks made in bars have large carbon footprints.
Artificial flavorings are a possible solution, but it can be better to have a glass of wine or beer.
The Carbon Footprint of Wine (Wine Carbon Footprint)
Wine making has come a long way over the centuries from when grapes were first crushed under bare feet in large vats.
Back then this was the preferred method as just enough pressure was applied to crush the grapes but to leave the seeds undamaged. Any crushed seeds would add a bitter taste so were to be avoided at all costs.
The tops of these containers had holes drilled into them from where the minute emissions of carbon dioxide could escape.
That was a long time ago when bare feet crushing grapes left barely any footprints. Carbon or otherwise.
The modernization of wine production has changed as demand increased across the globe. This has resulted in the wine industry becoming more mechanized in the rush to harvest the grapes faster and requiring acres of land for the vines, the whole process sometimes damaging the soil itself.
Planting the vines should offset the carbon dioxide generated from the complete production cycle, but it won’t if fertilizers and pesticides need to be used to preserve the over-tilled soil.
And that is just part of the carbon footprint of wine, a footprint that starts from the very first day the vines are planted. Even the introduction of screw caps over the last decade to replace corks amplifies the carbon impact of your favorite bottle of wine.
Carbon Footprint of a Bottle of Wine
How can a bottle of wine be such a cause for concern in the fight against climate change?
Surely, the carbon dioxide absorbing capabilities of the rows and rows of vines is contributing to cleaning the atmosphere of these planet-harmful pathogens?
Well, they are and they are not.
It is important to understand that not all trees are created equal, not in size nor in looks, but in their ability to capture carbon dioxide.
Younger trees absorb less carbon dioxide than older ones, so clearing away trees that have been around for generations for a new vineyard is going to lessen the carbon dioxide absorption in the area.
Vineyards also require large amounts of water, some up to 750 gallons per acre per hour, so, coupled with the actual process of fermentation, the act of turning grapes into wine accounts for tons of CO2 leaked into the atmosphere.
Packaging is the worst CO2 offender, though, in the wine industry, with the bottle itself accounting for over 60 percent of the carbon footprint of wine.
The formation of the bottles occurs in enormous establishments where they go through several smelting stages, where the base materials, sand, soda ash, and limestone as well as others, are melted together into molten globs at temperatures exceeding 1500 degrees.
These glowing globs of glass are then cut and dropped into molds where the shape of the bottle begins to be formed, known at this stage as a parison.
As it has cooled fractionally, the parison then needs to be reheated so the Press and Blow method of achieving the final shape of the bottle can be done by forcing air under pressure into the mold.
Yet even after that stage, the bottles need to be reheated again to temperatures above 1,000 degrees to ensure the bottles cool down uniformly to prevent any imperfection or cracks from occurring.
These enormous foundries have furnaces that run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, using fossil fuels, natural gas, and gigawatts of electricity to generate the incredible temperature requirements, without ever taking a break.
This energy expenditure and heat generation easily contribute to half of the carbon footprint of a bottle of wine.
How Is Carbon Footprint Calculated?
Online calculators can be used to estimate the size of carbon footprints created by companies, as well as individual households.
The carbon footprint of wine is estimated even before the grapes are plucked from the vines, with the final lifetime of the product being defined as the entire production process, including bottling, shipping, and finally, drinking.
What Is Carbon Footprint in Business?
Businesses begin to form their carbon footprint starting from where they source and transport their materials. If their materials are energy intensive to craft and come from the other side of the world, they are going to have a larger carbon footprint than materials sourced locally.
Identifying the direct and indirect activities that affect the carbon footprint is a beneficial step forward for any company, and these hotspots along the entire production chain need to be scrutinized and adjusted in the fight against climate change.
Causes of Carbon Footprint of Beer and How Much CO2 Is Produced by Brewing Beer?
Beer is one of the most popular alcoholic beverages on the planet, with famous brands being exported extensively as the demand for it grows, and new brands being manufactured constantly to be enjoyed in the country of origin.
Fortunately, it’s carbon footprint is relatively lower, as long as the quantity of consumption is equal to other forms of alcohol.
The base materials to start fermentation are grain, hops, yeast, and water, heated to temperatures of 15-25 degrees C. A maturation period of a few weeks follows and then the beer can go to the end stage, bottling.
This process alone generates in excess of 0.25 kg of carbon emissions per liter. The remainder of the carbon impact is derived from the bottles, the bottling process, and the greenhouse gas polluting the atmosphere from transportation.
The benefit of beer is that it can generally be brewed in large amounts locally compared to wine and that will decrease the importation of thousands of empty bottles.
If any of the ingredients can be purchased within the country or even as close to the brewery as possible, it would make a significant difference in the struggle against global warming, and minimize the carbon footprint.
How To Reduce Carbon Footprint and the Carbon Footprint Wine Industry
Simple changes can increase the effectiveness of carbon offset such as using biodiesel instead of diesel to power the tractors used in vineyards.
Just this little change can contribute towards turning a winery into a carbon-neutral vineyard.
Not widely known is that constant tilling of soil that occurs in vineyards to control the weeds can induce an increase in soil erosion and increase the effects of global warming.
Combining that with the use of solar panels and the carbon footprint of any vineyard can be minimized.
But to really reduce the global impact of the entire winery industry, the attention needs to be focused on the bottles. Decreasing the weight by just 20 percent will cut 100g of CO2 per bottle.
Considering that every year in the United States nearly 4 billion bottles are produced just for the wine industry alone, creating the carbon footprint of wine to over 5 billion kgs of CO2. It can only be a good thing for the planet if that can be reduced by 20 percent.
Carbon Footprint Calculator and the GHG Emissions Calculator
Why is it necessary to calculate the carbon footprint and how does this differ from the greenhouse gas emissions calculator?
Knowing the extent of carbon footprints enables us to be able to counteract them, to bring them down as close to net zero as possible. The unit of measurement used to calculate the
While the measurement of damages caused by greenhouse gases is measured by the emissions themselves, carbon footprints are calculated by the consumption of energy, and the energy used to produce materials as well as transport them.
This is particularly applicable to imported ingredients that have to travel long distances from farms to ports, then by container ship to another country, then from ports by truck to production facilities.
Each stage, not even including the farming methods employed beforehand and the finishing process once all the materials arrive at their destination afterward, leaves an indelible mark that accumulates step by step across the planet on a daily basis.
The steps required to make an exceptional bottle of wine are numerous and each stage has its own impact on the carbon footprint as well as the quantity of greenhouse gas emissions.
1. Harvesting is the first stage once the grapes are close to being ripe. This can traditionally be undertaken by hand by a slew of professional workers going row by row to snip bunches of grapes off the vine.
This hand-picking method is time-consuming yet very accurate, reducing the leaves and small twigs that may enter the wine production stage.
2. Alternatively, machines can be used. These diesel-powered harvesters are where the carbon footprint begins to be formed as they trundle up and down the rows shaking the grapes free, and belching forth greenhouse gases.
Improvement in technology has enabled them to be just as discerning as professional hand-pickers when selecting which grapes are ripe, enabling them to select better grapes while also working longer hours.
3. Once the grapes are collected they are sent to the plant for the first fermentation process of converting them into alcohol which can take between 5-21 days after the yeast is added. Unfortunately, this transformation emits a lot of carbon dioxide.
4. Pressing, blending, and then bottling follows soon after. And then a portion of the wine-making system that is barely considered in regards to the carbon footprint, is storing.
Some wines are stored for a few years to mature, while others are kept at a constant temperature between 45° F and 65° F for decades, and that takes a lot of energy.
Carbon Neutral Wine Meaning and What Is Carbon Footprint Philosophy?
Carbon neutrality means nullifying the carbon footprint created by a winery, for example, so that it becomes net zero.
The easiest way to describe this process is a balancing of scales where whatever carbon emissions are emitted are absorbed somewhere else in an offset procedure called carbon sequestration.
This offsetting process occurs when trees absorb and store carbon dioxide, cleaning the atmosphere.
Calculating the extent of the carbon footprint is the first stage and then counterbalancing those emissions by creating carbon sinks. These land masses or forested zones are crucial in the fight against climate change, as is looking after the earth’s oceans.
Deforestation is out of control in the rainforests of Brazil, where uncontrolled logging and forest fires are raging out of control. When those trees are burned the stored carbon dioxide is then released into the atmosphere.
In other parts of the world, these carbon sinks are being reduced without any climate change considerations or being eliminated completely as land is cleared for cattle, arable land, or vineyards.
Carbon Footprint of Wine: What Is the Carbon Footprint of Alcohol? (Beer CO2 Emissions)
The carbon footprint of alcohol is determined by the entire production process that it undergoes.
Apart from the amounts of greenhouse gases created from harvesting the crops and mixing the grains, incredible amounts of water are utilized to mix all the harvested ingredients required to make your favorite drink.
These machines also have a high energy expenditure contributing to the carbon footprint, and this can be exacerbated by transportation over long distances.
The CO2 emissions of beer, for example, can vary from 300g CO2e for a barrel of locally brewed beer up to 900g CO2e for bottled beer that has gone through several transportation methods.
The invention of cleaner technologies or if lower carbon burning methods could be used in the powering of foundries, imagine how much smaller the carbon footprint would be on a bottle of wine or a bottle of beer.
So now, knowing what the carbon footprint of wine (bottle) vs beer and 13 more liquor types is, may make you think twice about the next drink you order on a night out.
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