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Akhila Vijayaraghavan headshot

Bottoms Up for Sustainable Tequila Production

The production of alcoholic drinks does have a huge environmental impact. In the Mexican town of Tequila which is surrounded by agave plants, the process of manufacturing tequila is as messy as over-indulging in the drink itself.

The blue agave cactus fields near the town are a World Heritage site and Mexican law states that tequila can only be produced within these limited regions. The country has also claimed exclusive international right to the word "tequila," threatening legal actions against manufacturers of distilled blue agave spirits in other countries. All this makes the blue agave plant very precious and tequila even more so.

Agave fields in Mexico are rapidly diminishing due to pollution, increase in area required to grow biofuels, lack of water and other factors. However, some tequila manufacturers are beginning to take note of the importance of sustainability factors in tequila manufacturing. One such company is Casa Herradura. They have been working on making several aspects of their production as eco-friendly as possible.

In 2007, the company built a multi-million dollar, wastewater treatment plant to treat 100 percent of the water utilized in the production process. The production of tequila is very water intensive - for every gallon of tequila, there are 18 gallons of liquid waste.This waste is so acidic that when it is released without treatment, it makes the soil unfit for farming. In 2010, the company installed a second treatment plant which was used to treat the water from the cafeterias, restrooms, bathrooms. The filtered, treated water is reused for irrigation of the agave plants and lawns thereby reducing overall water use for the company.

The company also installed a waste-to-energy process that fuels a steam boiler with biogas generated by a biological anaerobic reactor, as part of the wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). This system provides 12 percent of the energy utilized in the tequila production process. They have also converted 81,000 tons of agave bagasse into more than 27,000 tons of compost that is used in agave fields and nurseries since 2008.

Casa Herradura also has a comprehensive recycling program that ensure that all materials are separated and recycled. This program also includes hazardous wastes, generated during the agriculture process. The company has also implemented a Green Field program that handles and disposes non-hazardous waste produced during the agave harvesting.

The 140 year old company had recently revamped the look of its bottles and packaging. From the sound of things, they are also doing the same to their sustainability efforts.

Akhila Vijayaraghavan headshot

Akhila is the Founding Director of GreenDen Consultancy which is dedicated to offering business analysis, reporting and marketing solutions powered by sustainability and social responsibility. Based in the US, Europe, and India, the GreenDen's consultants share the best practices and innovation from around the globe to achieve real results. She has previously written about CSR and ethical consumption for Justmeans and hopes to put a fresh spin on things for this column. As an IEMA certified CSR practitioner, she hopes to highlight a new way of doing business. She believes that consumers have the immense power to change 'business as usual' through their choices. She is a Graduate in Molecular Biology from the University of Glasgow, UK and in Environmental Management and Law. In her free-time she is a voracious reader and enjoys photography, yoga, travelling and the great outdoors. She can be contacted via Twitter @aksvi and also http://www.thegreenden.net

Read more stories by Akhila Vijayaraghavan