Monday, June 9, 2008

Wine in a Box may be Greener, But Will I Buy It? Part 2

Friday, I told you about my introduction to wine, and while the wine my friend Susan and I consumed that night may have been less than yummy, it was at least in a bottle and had real cork for a cork.

I also discussed how it is that wine a box can stay fresher much longer than wine in a bottle once it has been open. I'm convinced that wine in a box will stay fresher longer, but I don't particularly care. I want my bottle and I want my cork. And, really, an open bottle of wine usually doesn't last too long around my house.

I've also been reading lately about how boxes of wine are also more environmentally friendly. This, of course, caught my attention.

Here's the lowdown. The argument is that boxed wine is much lighter than bottled wine and therefore a lot of energy waste and emissions are saved in the shipping of the wine. According to The Wine Group who recently purchased Almaden and Inglenook wines, by switching from glass bottles to bag in a box (otherwise known as BIB packages), there will be a 60% reduction in the carbon footprints of those brands. That's some savings.

But how easy is it to recycle these BIB packages? Are both the bag and the box recyclable? And more importantly, if they are recyclable, are they made of the type of recyclable materials that most townships collect? There are many materials that are recyclable, like styrofoam egg cartons, but finding a convenient place to take them to be recycled is difficult. If it is difficult to recycle BIB's, most people will not recycle them.

After much searching, I could not find the answers to those questions. I found one site Better Wines, Better World, that is obviously a site developed by the marketers of wineries that sell wine in a box. It gives statistics on how beneficial the packaging is, but it doesn't mention exactly what it is made of or how to recycle it. In fact, I can't find any mention of recycling anywhere on the site which makes me suspicious that recycling the containers is problematic. I have no proof of that, but the lack of mentioning it on a site that is designed strictly to get the info out about how green wine in a box is makes me skeptical.

I do know that glass is recyclable and that most of the people I know, if they do recycle, recycle glass and paper more than any other materials. 

I wish I had more concrete facts. I'm sure if wine in a box is becoming more and more acceptable by the second as the pro-wine in a box articles I read mentioned, additional information will be easy to find soon.

But until then, if you aren't convinced that wine in a box is greener, or you simply aren't willing to give up your bottle and your cork, here are a couple of suggestions to still do some good while drinking your vino.

  • Buy organic wines. Sure the box that the wine comes in may be greener, but what about the wine inside the box? How were the grapes grown? If they were grown in vineyards that use harmful pesticides to produce grapes in a mass amount, then they are harming the earth and quite possibly your body. 
  • Buy wines from local vineyards. If your wine doesn't have to be shipped from the producer to your local wine store, does it really matter how heavy the packaging is? If you're going to the vineyard itself to buy the wine, it seems to me that point is moot. 
So, to answer the question in the title - Will I buy it? Probably not. If I haven't mentioned it yet, I like my bottle and I like my cork. Plus, I'm not convinced it's actually greener. And, I've had wines from a box before at different parties, and I have never had one that I thought was all that good.

However, I have been known to do solicited product reviews from time to time. So if there is a winery out there who would like to send me a box or two to sample and review, I'm game. Go ahead, try to change my mind. I'm sure my friend Susan would be happy to help me out!

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Allison said...

Robin- Just recently I started to drink wine, maybe 3 years now. So that does not make me an expert by far. But when I started I made it a point to drink native wine-meaning California like Napa and Sonoma. (I also liked the way CA stuck it to the French in so many taste tests.) I didn't realize I was being greener for that decision, I just wanted to keep it local. I have always lived in CA. If you don't live here I heard NY, WA and OR have been known to produce good wines. And in some blogs I read the writers are drinking their local wine, wherever they live. I am lucky to live in a town that produces its own wine and it is so fun to be able to visit and do tastings at the winery. If you are able to visit the winery I highly recommend it!
Now with the box. I am proud of you. Stick with the bottle. Why? Almost all glass is recycled into new glass. Plastic is not. And what number plastic is it? Can it be recycled in your area? And plastic in general leaks toxins into the food it holds. And to me, every time we buy something plastic we are saying that it is ok to make even more plastic. If I get a choice I buy anything but plastic. "Plastic" is the new four letter word.
If you are worried about your carbon footprint when you buy glass bottles just buy a case. Then it only travels once. Store it because wine only gets better with age.

Robin Shreeves said...

You're so fortunate to live near Napa Valley. We do have some wineries in the area, and the friend I mention in the post, Susan, and I have done a bit of checking them out, but this region just doesn't produce really good wine.

So for now, I'll keep trying organic wines (still haven't found a keeper yet - maybe it's because I won't pay more than $12/bottle).