Let’s say you were inspired by the recent posts on Organic, Sustainable and Biodynamic wines. You go to the Fine Wines and Good Spirits store, and in an environmentally conscious state of mind, you purchase a bottle of organic wine from a producer in Australia. Are you doing your part for the environment? Certainly, the wine has no added chemicals, so you must be helping, right? But, what about that bottle that had to travel 9,614 miles? What sort of carbon footprint did that create?
It was bad enough feeling guilty every time we took a swig of water from a plastic bottle. But now we also have to express remorse every time we buy wine that weighs too much. Glass weighs more than cardboard and plastic. That’s not fake news. It’s a fact.
The most reliable way to minimize wine-related carbon emissions is to avoid bottles that have traveled by air. If possible, choose bottles that spent more time in a boat than in a truck. Since container ships handle most intercontinental wine transport, Americans who live east of Nebraska are better off buying a wine from Bordeaux than one from Sonoma because the California wines would have taken a long overland journey. Magnums are better than standard 750-milliliter bottles, because there’s less packaging per mouthful of wine.
Or, you can avoid the bottle completely. Important people, very important people have told me that wine boxes are here bigly, filling the glasses of oenophiles. But the classic bag-in-box (BIB) model isn’t the only glass-bottle alternative. Wineries have begun using PET plastic wine bottles and Tetra Paks (often used in juice boxes). “Green” is the new “black’!
The greenest choice is a wine made from organic, biodynamic grapes in BPA-free, BIB containers printed with soy-based inks and sealed with cornstarch. Only a few wineries have come this far, so don’t worry if you can’t find a box of wine with these exact specifications.
BIB packaging has an environmental impact. A BIB uses a plastic bag fitted with a nozzle and nestled inside a cardboard box. Compared to the glass bottle, it is both lighter and more efficiently packed for shipping, which reduces its carbon footprint. The box and plastic bag inside are both recyclable, so long as your area accepts #7 plastic.
That kind of plastic, however, is often made with Bisphenol A (BPA). To make sure the bag is BPA-free, inquire with the winery, or check the label. Each box usually holds three or four traditional 750-milliliter bottles, and its collapsing vacuum bag and airtight nozzle keep wine fresh for up to a month after opening. At the cost equivalent of about $5 a bottle, these wines beat their bottle counterparts for price.
According to a life-cycle inventory of the production, transportation, and post-consumer recycling of Tetra Paks, glass bottles, and PET bottles, delivering 1,000 liters of wine in Tetra Paks uses less energy and produces less greenhouse gas than plastic PET bottles and traditional glass bottles, which produce 922 and 1,926 pounds respectively.
Tetra Paks are made from a composite of paperboard, aluminum, and polyolefin resins, but only the paper portion can be recycled. To find out if Tetra Paks are recyclable where you live, visit
If we want to reduce our carbon footprint from the use of wine bottles, producers everywhere will need to deliver better wine in a box, and make it snappy. Perhaps they will if consumers start to demand that everyday wines that don’t need to age in a bottle be sold in a box. If you’re sorry about the change, squeeze off another well-preserved, affordable, low-carbon serving of boxed wine and mull it over.