Tapping into sustainable wine

‘Carbon-positive’ wine not a substitute for much-needed energy use changes, prof says

The AMS Pub Services (TAPS) hope students will shell out more cash for a green bottle of wine—tree included.

On Wednesday, Alfie’s and the QP start selling Plantatree wine, produced by Ontario-based Lifford Wine Agency.

Plantatree wine touts itself as the first non-profit and carbon-positive wine on the market.

The company plants a coniferous sapling in Sudbury, on land owned by non-profit organization Tree Canada, for each bottle sold.

The company estimates that the average Canadian produces five tonnes of carbon each year, and each tree is able to absorb about 0.3 tonnes of carbon in its lifetime.

By drinking one bottle of Plantatree wine every 23 days, the company states a consumer will erase his or her carbon footprint for the year.

TAPS Purchasing Manager Lisa Pozhke said she expects the product to sell well, despite costing $5 to $10 more per bottle than the wine currently being sold. “Our sparkling wine, also at $25 a bottle, sold out in its first hour and a half, and it didn’t come with a tree,” Pozhke said.

Pozhke said discussions about whether to start selling the wine began in mid-December. The wine was quickly approved.

“We were so excited about this new initiative. We’ve tried composting and compact fluorescent lights … but this is very doable. It is a great way to do our part,” she said.

TAPS will sell both the Plantatree Chardonnay and the Plantatree Merlot at $25, alongside the wine currently being sold at Alfie’s and the QP.

Plantatree wine is also being sold at the LCBO for $14.35 on its website.

AMS Sustainability Co-ordinator Maryam Adrangi said she thinks it’s worth trying out the wine because it produces good results for the environment.

“It’s hard to say no to planting a tree,” Adrangi said.

Geography professor Neal Scott said although it’s good the company is starting this initiative, consumers shouldn’t be too quick to accept all its environmental claims.

He said the estimate of five tonnes per Canadian is quite low. “Canada has one of the highest carbon dioxide emissions in the world right now,” he said, adding that carbon dioxide comprises roughly 85 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Scott said this initiative is only a positive first step.

“This is not a substitute for the major changes in energy use that are required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to levels that aren’t likely to alter the climate system.”

The wine is transported in bulk from Ironstone Vineyards in California to Niagara, where it’s bottled using 100 per cent recyclable plastic. A Plantatree wine bottle is half the weight of an average glass wine bottle, the company says, which reduces emissions due to an increase in transport efficiency.

Scott said consumers should consider what the transportation and production emissions are.

“They seem to be saying you, individually, can offset all your [carbon] emission, not just those associated with the particular product,” he said. “Ideally you’d be offsetting those emissions.”

Scott said he would have to complete an in-depth analysis before seeing if the company’s efforts are as environmentally-conscious as they claim.

“On the surface it’s a good idea,” he said. “It’s starting to accept the fact that producing any of these products has an environmental cost and they’re trying to counter that cost.”

The Grad Club hasn’t decided to sell the wine yet, General Manager Virginia Clark said.

“We’re definitely considering it,” Clark said. “I think it’s a great idea and I’ve spoken with the [Plantatree] representative but I still have questions about it.”

Clark said she wants to be conscientious and find out more about the production, packaging and transportation methods for the wine before making an informed decision. She will continue discussions with the company.

“They’re trying to make an effort, which is courageous.” Claire Bunnick, ArtSci ’08, said she will buy the wine because of the environmental advantages it has.

“I’m in environmental science courses and when I heard about it, it really interested me,” Bunnick said, adding “the wine is really good.”

Steven Campbell, Lifford Wine Agency president, said he hopes the wine will soon be available throughout Canada.

Campbell said Lifford’s goal is to plant 100,000 trees in Plantatree’s first year. The company will work with Tree Canada to begin planting this spring.

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

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