The Environmental Sustainability category of The Gin Guide Awards 2022 received a multitude of inspiring and impressive entries, and what has been really interesting in judging them is that we get a snapshot of the sustainability efforts being undertaken across the industry, which processes are being increasingly utilised and the new ideas being developed and trialled. It’s been a fascinating and valuable insight.
The Awards Criteria
What were we looking for in the entries? The Gin Guide Awards Judges were tasked to identify which distilleries are most effectively and uncompromisingly introducing and using processes and materials to minimise the negative impact on the global and local environment, including reducing waste and carbon footprint. The category aims to highlight the distilleries that are going to exceptional lengths and developing a genuine and dedicated company-wide ethos and set of processes, beyond individual initiatives, token efforts or plans yet to be implemented. We ask the question, whether a small or large distillery, are they maximising the relative opportunities for sustainability? This is an important stipulation as it recognises that whether the entrant is a larger distillery that is well established and well funded, or a new, small distillery, there is the opportunity to be setting and achieving sustainability goals that are appropriate to their scale. The criteria also considers that where possible these distilleries should have clear sustainability objectives and a defined approach. They should be regularly monitoring, measuring and reviewing the impacts of their efforts and comparing these against their goals and ethos. Are they delivering on their ideals, plans and ambitions?
So, that’s what the Judges were looking for - now let’s take a closer look at what the 2022 Winners are doing that makes them Award-worthy, and also what the 'Special Mention' entries are doing too:
WINNER: Shed 1 Distillery - Cumbria, England
Shed 1 Distillery have been since the very beginning. Andy And Zoe explained, “since our launch we have used packaging that is recycled/recyclable/compostable: Glass bottles, paper and card packaging, paper labels.” Packaging is definitely a focus of theirs, with them thinking of a way they can be more independent in their processes to keep them in-house and minimise the carbon footprint of transportation. “We have invested in a cardboard shredder. It turns boxes into wrapping packaging (cardboard nets). This cuts down on the packaging we need to buy in and recycles the packaging that comes in from goods ordered. When needed, we supplement with biodegradable bubble wrap (that adds nutrients to the soil if it ends up in landfill).” Additionally they employ a waste disposal company to recycle all dry recyclables (excluding the cardboard).
Shed 1 Distillery have installed a closed loop cooling system, and Andy and Zoe note that this is “so we reuse the water needed for cooling during the distilling process. This saves 1,000s of litres of water for every distillation.”
Shed 1 Distillery compost all of their used botanicals, they have a bottle and jar return scheme where customers can return their bottles for reuse, and they donate money to charity for each bottle returned. Likewise they collect corks on behalf of the Recorked scheme, both their own and any others people bring.
Even areas of the distillery that aren’t a part of production are thought of - Andy and Zoe added, “toiletries and cleaning products are all recyclable and botanically-based. Toilet and kitchen paper come from 'Who Gives a Crap', made from Bamboo and 50% of the profits go to help build toilets and improve sanitation in the developing world.” And, they have even twinned their toilet and taps through the Toilet Twinning initiative (Tearfund), which funds projects to bring toilets and clean water to poor communities around the world.
Their thinking extends to larger projects that they can get involved with to help other businesses. “Through Small Business Britain we have committed to be net zero by 2030, however, since we signed up with Ecologi we now offset more carbon than our business produces. We have also been asked to be part of the government’s “sounding board” regarding their upcoming Net Zero Campaign for small and micro business in the lead up to the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow this November.” Going far beyond individual and one-off initiatives, Andy and Zoe explained “With the help of Tim from Green Small Business we have an audit each year to check what progress we have made and discuss other possible initiatives. We have set out an Environmental Action Plan in order to continue to reduce our carbon footprint, and we keep our customers informed of our progress through a Sustainability Commitment and Blog on our website: https://shed1distillery.com/sustainability-commitment/” To us, what makes Shed 1 Award-winners is their ‘no stone unturned’ approach, making the most of every opportunity and encouraging others to do the same.
WINNER: North Point Distillery (Crosskirk Bay Gin) - Scotland
Sustainability is absolutely at the heart of everything they do and their focus is really impressive, shown in practices like the 7 Rs: “Refuse, Reduce, Repurpose, Reuse, Recycle, Rot, Rethink.” Likewise, whereas some distilleries are lessening their plastic usage, North Point is already absolute in their mentality - “We will never use any single-use plastics in our Distillery.” Their packaging materials are 100% recyclable, with bespoke cardboard fitments and boxes from the Boxshop and Flexihex. The Kite paper tape is biodegradable and 100% recyclable and their bottles are made from 100% recycled bottles and in turn are 100% recyclable. They have also welcomed the idea to tolerate imperfections in the manufacturing process to reduce waste.
One of the most visible and distinctive parts of North Point Distillery's environmental sustainability credentials is that their energy is a closed-loop system and is provided entirely through renewable means. Laura explains, "our site uses only low carbon mains electricity, most of which comes from the on-site wind farm at Forss. This means our distillery is one of the few in Scotland (and the entire UK!) to be fully powered by green energy."
And the North Point Distillery team are not stopping there. As well as waste being disposed through Anaerobic digestion, in a pioneering project involving the Scottish government, the Environmental Research Institute, Robert Gordon University, and Inver-house Distillers, a biomass energy plant has received planning permission on the same site as our distillery in Forss. This means that their waste will be converted into energy for on-site car charging points and low carbon energy for the local community.
WINNER: Maidstone Distillery - Kent, England
Maidstone Distillery recognise that all its activities have environmental implications. It is therefore the policy of the company to operate the Distillery in as sustainable and as environmentally conscious a way as possible. Due to this they aim to always consider the impact of decisions on the environment and regularly review their operations.
Maidstone Distillery aim to reduce environmental impact and encourage others to do the same, by implementing a policy including points like reducing energy waste, water waste and carbon footprint, minimising plastic and recycling and moving to green energy. The distillery's co-founder, Samantha Graves explains that "all of our spirits are packed using Flexi-Hex plastic free packaging - we do not use plastic based tapes, polystyrene or shrink wrap – even our bottle seals are made from paper. Our spirit labels are paper based. Our bottle closure seals are made from a paper based watch strap. The bottle stoppers are recyclable, formed of wood and recyclable components."
"Our distillery runs on 100% green energy. It may be more expensive, but we are committed to reducing the environmental impact of our operations to the absolute minimum. For example, all light fittings within the distillery are energy efficient LEDs. And we have now launched our bottle refill scheme, which allows our customers to return their empty bottles to us for refilling at a reduced cost. This scheme will not only reduce the number of bottles destined for landfill, but also lower the number of new bottles being transported to the distillery, helping to reduce our carbon footprint further."
WINNER: Sloemotion Distillery - Yorkshire, England
As of 2022, Sloemotion are beginning their journey to become a B CORP accredited business; this will enable them to thoroughly measure both our social and environmental performances.
The Sloes used in their Sloe Gin are locally foraged, along with rosehips, crab apples, nettle leaf and elderflower. They are looking at forming a Yorkshire cooperative with other Yorkshire distilleries to create and supply a Yorkshire neutral grain spirit, and they also now source their bottles from Allied Glass, based 40 miles from the distillery (having previously imported from Slovenia and France), along with natural cork/wood stoppers and paper tamper seals.
Sloemotion use Octopus Energy, which is 100% green energy, and an iStill which uses around 20% of the energy of a traditional copper pot . During a move in 2006, they repurposed and insulated redundant farm buildings, and in 2020 they installed a 38,000 litre waste-water tank. The water is supplied to a local anaerobic digestor as it contains valuable sugar and nutrients that aids the functioning of the digestor. All botanical waste is composted.
All cardboard waste is disposed of in an environmentally responsible way. About 5% of “waste” cardboard is re-used to help package products, the much of the remainder is used for a more unusual way! Working with the Green Farm land manager, Richard Hudson, the team provide the waste cardboard for spreading in the farm’s pig sheds. The cardboard is played with by the pigs (with proven health benefits for the animals) and then gradually trodden into the bedding, the bedding is then composted and returned to the land as a soil conditioner.
In 2022, Sloemotion have commiting to recording baseline impacts, confirming its carbon status, and providing data in order to set targets for subsequent years.
SPECIAL MENTIONS 2022
An addition to this year's Winners in the Environmental Sustainability category, 5 other distilleries caught the Judges' eyes with highly commendable efforts, existing implementations, and exciting plans for the future that share similar inspiration, goals and activities to some of this year's Winners.
SPECIAL MENTION: Dog & Spoon Distillery - Derbyshire, England
SPECIAL MENTION: Downton Distillery - Wiltshire, England
SPECIAL MENTION: Inshriach Distillery - Scotland
SPECIAL MENTION: That Spirited Lot - Australia
SPECIAL MENTION: Wild Fox - Lancashire, England
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