Easy Sustainability Answers

Does wine packaging matter when it comes to the environment?

Adriene Hill Sep 1, 2010

Easy Answer: Yes. Wine-in-the-box may be your best choice.

France’s Champagne makers are working to make their bottles more environmentally friendly, according to the New York Times. They’re trying to slim the bottles down, reduce their weight, and cut the amount of energy it takes to transport all that bubbly around the world. All told, they are hoping to cut their carbon dioxide emissions by 200,000 metric tons.

Reducing packaging weight is an easy way to improve the environmental impact of wine. Slate’s Green Lantern suggests the oft-mocked wine-in-a-box may be the best way to limit the amount of waste created by our desire for a glass of Cabernet or Merlot. The box can be recycled. And, the wine inside stays fresher longer than it would in an open glass bottle. (The question you have to ask yourself: are you willing to trade in your Chateau Margaux for Franzia?)

There are other parts of wine packaging that also make a difference.

Cork for one. According to the World Wildlife Fund, natural cork stoppers are good for the environment. The market for cork actually helps sustain forests in the Mediterranean. Making cork stoppers doesn’t mean you have to cut trees down; cork is just the bark of the tree. “If the demand for cork is not maintained there’s a risk the cork oak landscapes of the western Mediterranean will, within a decade, face increased poverty, more forest fires, loss of biodiversity, and faster desertification.”

Some wine lovers will argue (especially those on the screw-top side of the screw-top vs. cork debate) that a bad cork can spoil a good bottle of wine– wasting all the work, resources, and energy that went into it.

Photo credit: Flickr user amb.photography.

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