Cab for a cause
A new wine label helps Canadians to offset their carbon footprints
Cameron Ainsworth-Vincze | Feb 20, 2008 | 21:04:17
Most epiphanies involving wine take place after a few glasses. But for Steven Campbell, owner of Toronto’s Lifford Wine Agency, inspiration struck on a long drive with his friend Jed Goldberg, president of Earth Day Canada. Returning home from a business trip, Campbell and Goldberg started throwing ideas around about business ventures that could save a planet in peril. “Consumers want green products,” was a phrase Campbell kept repeating, “and I know how to distribute wine.” What came out of the dialogue was the world’s first carbon-positive wine: Plantatree. “It just sort of made sense,” notes Campbell, “to make a great wine and plant trees.”
The result of that epiphany is now on sale in liquor stores across Ontario—with plans to sell it nationally—in the form of a Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, each priced at $14.95 a bottle. For every bottle of wine sold, Lifford is giving $2.50 to Tree Canada to plant one coniferous sapling in Sudbury, Ont. The goal by the end of the first year is to plant 100,000 trees, with each one estimated to absorb 650 lb. of carbon over the course of its lifespan. Lifford estimates it will offset its 2007 carbon emissions within 10 years by planting 1,875 trees this year. Consumers can eliminate their own annual carbon footprint—an estimated 5.7 tonnes of greenhouse gases per person, according to Environment Canada—by purchasing one bottle of Plantatree wine every 23 days. Campbell’s long-term goal is to plant one million trees.
Planting trees isn’t the only environmental aspect of the wine. Although Campbell desperately wanted to use organic grapes, he settled for grapes from a farm in California’s central valley that uses sustainable agricultural practices, because the organic kind were not plentiful and can be temperamental. Once harvested, the wine is shipped in bulk to Niagara via a giant tanker truck that holds roughly 2,500 cases worth of wine, about twice the amount that can be transported via a standard transport truck. With double the amount of wine being shipped per truck, the quantity of gas needed to move the wine is significantly reduced. The wine is then bottled in Niagara, by Niagara Vintners, in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic bottles. The plastic bottles are unbreakable and significantly lighter than glass, reducing the overall transportation cost even more when they are transported to stores. PET bottles are also easier to recycle and can be used as raw material in a range of products as a replacement for polyester. Once bottling is complete, the wine is packaged in cartons made of recycled paper.
And what’s the verdict from wine experts? “They are unpretentious, easy-drinking wines that can go well with food,” says sommelier Zoltan Szabo. Tony Aspler, a wine writer who recently co-authored The Definitive Canadian Wine & Cheese Cookbook with Gurth Pretty, gives each of the wines 3½ stars out of five. “It’s the 58-minutes rule with these wines. You buy ’em, take them home and open them,” he says. “These are not for laying down.” That seems perfectly in line with Lifford’s desire to help the environment today, instead of waiting for somebody to have an eco-friendly epiphany tomorrow.