LOS ANGELES, 24 OCTOBER 2009
Dear EarthTalk: Apparently boxed wine (instead of bottled) is
becoming all the rage for environmental reasons. What are the
eco-benefits of boxed wine over bottled?
Justin J., Los Angeles, CA
With more and more wineries offering organic varieties to
lower their eco-footprint, it's no surprise that they're
looking at the environmental impacts of their packaging as
well. The making of conventional glass bottles (and the corks
that cap them) uses significant quantities of natural
resources and generates considerable pollution. According to
the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the process of
manufacturing glass not only contributes its share of
greenhouse gas emissions but also generates nitrogen oxides,
sulfur dioxide and tiny particulates that can damage lung
tissue when breathed in.
Beyond manufacturing, the transport of wine in glass bottles
across the country and around the world also takes its
environmental toll. According to wine writer Tyler Colman,
upwards of 90 percent of American wine is produced on the
West Coast, but then shipped to the East Coast where the
majority of wine consumers live. Trucking all these heavy
glass bottles generates a much larger carbon footprint,
ounce-for-ounce than the transportation of much lighter boxed
wine. Almost half the weight of an ordinary case of wine
comes from the bottles; about 95 percent of the weight of a
case of boxed wine is the wine itself.
Photo: Bota Box
"A standard wine bottle holds 750 milliliters of wine and
generates about 5.2 pounds of carbon-dioxide emissions when
it travels from a vineyard in California to a store in New
York," reports Colman, who blogs at DrVino.com. "A 3-liter
box generates about half the emissions per 750 milliliters."
He concludes that switching to wine in a box "for the 97
percent of wines that are made to be consumed within a year"
would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about two million
tons, or the equivalent of removing 400,000 cars from the
According to the Wine Group, the third largest wine company
in the world by volume and a big advocate for switching away
from glass bottles, there are other advantages to boxed wine
(which typically includes a plastic bag within a cardboard
box). The vacuum packaging of boxed wines allows the contents
to stay fresh for up to six weeks in the fridge once the seal
is broken and the first glass has been poured. The Wine Group
has launched the "Better Wines Better World" website in an
attempt to curry public favor for technologically advanced,
environmentally friendly and economically practical boxed
Still, despite the benefits, boxed wine may still be a tough
pill to swallow for many wine connoisseurs still bent on
tradition. "Even those traditionalists who are coming around
to the idea that maybe screw caps are fine for some wines,
balk at the idea of a cellar full of cardboard boxes," says
wine writer and vineyard owner Lee Asbell. "It is difficult
to imagine how wine service at fine-dining establishments
would handle such a change." For now, boxed wine is still the
domain of cheaper brands. But that could all change as more
and more wine makers and drinkers take up the mantle of
saving the Earth.
CONTACTS: Better Wines Better World, www.betterwinesbetterworld.com.
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