What We Can Learn From Wine – Shipping and Packaging Matters

When managers consider how to reduce the carbon footprint of their products, distribution methods and packaging should be near the top of their list. A new study that evaluates the carbon footprint of wine shows that, although manufacturing processes are important, the manner in which wine is shipped and packaged makes all the difference.
Tyler Colman (aka Dr. Vino) and Pablo PaÃàster (our very own AskPablo author) show in their new study for the American Association of Wine Economists that shipping by container or reefer ship has far less of a carbon impact than shipping by train, truck, or airplane. In addition, shipping in bulk or in larger bottles also reduces the carbon footprint of wine.

Bottles contribute substantial weight to the shipping of wine. In order to reduce the shipping weight, the authors suggest that manufacturers consider packaging wine in regionally-produced recycled bottles or lightweight boxes.
Will this type of packaging turn-off fancy wine drinkers? Not necessarily, especially if winemakers can make explicit their attempts to enhance the environmental integrity of their product in the packaging itself. In this way, wineries can appeal to the growing number of conscious consumers in the market.
Of course, the analysis of this study depends on where the wine is produced and consumed. The authors evaluated the carbon footprint of an Australian, French, and Californian wine consumed in Chicago. The results show that, contrary to what many may presume, internationally produced wines have less of a carbon footprint for Chicago wine-drinkers than those produced in California. Wines produced close to consumers (i.e. without extensive train, truck, or airplane travel) or far from consumers (i.e. shipped in bulk with container or reefer ship) have the least negative environmental impact.
“The biggest take-away from this study are the effects of transporting wine,” says Pablo. When wine is produced and consumed in the same region, the carbon impact is lessened. When it comes to producing for the global market, think “light” and “bulk.” Package at the source of sales and use recycled materials when possible.

Shannon Arvizu, Ph.D., is a clean tech educator and cutting-edge consultant for the auto industry. You can follow her test drives in the cars of the future at www.misselectric.com.

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