Craft Spirits July 2021

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commitment to sustainability is front and center upon arrival at Appalachian Gap Distillery. On the way to the tasting room in Middlebury, Vermont, visitors can see six solar arrays that provide all of the distillery’s electricity. But recently, the company—founded in 2010 by Lars Hubbard and Chuck Burkins—saw an opportunity to expand its sustainability mission. In April, Appalachian Gap became the nation’s first distillery to become certified with Climate Neutral, a nonprofit association that works to decrease global carbon emissions by getting brands to measure, offset and reduce the carbon they emit. According to Will Drucker, Appalachian Gap’s head of hustle, it was a logical next step. “At this point it would almost be an expectation for existing customers that we’re just continuing to improve our performance and continue on our journey towards greater and greater sustainability,” says Drucker. As climate change forces humanity to carefully consider its carbon footprint and impact on future generations, many distilleries are joining the push for a more sustainable world. While demand for earth-friendly products rises, so rises the number of organizations offering certifications that businesses and their products are green. Here is a glimpse at some of these organizations, as well as some additional sustainability initiatives from American craft distillers. CERTIFIED B CORPORATIONS Certified B Corporations (B Corps) are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. The assessment evaluates how a company’s operations and business model impacts workers, community, environment and customers. Of the nearly 4,000 Certified B Corps, less than a handful are American distilleries, including Fair Game Beverage Co., Headframe Spirits and Montanya Distillers. “We’re local economy freaks and local ingredient freaks and that has been our mission. It just fits into the B Corp model nicely,” says Lyle Estill of Fair Game Beverage, which makes wine and spirits in Pittsboro, North Carolina. “It’s an alternative to Wall Street if you will, or an alternative to big commodity, big corporate— well—greed. We’re more about mission.” Estill says the assessment “challenges your belief systems and your company’s practices and it takes work.” One recent challenge occurred in the company’s tasting room, which


The Match Factory, which dates back to the early 1900s, houses Big Spring Spirits in Pennsylvania.

also sells craft beer and cider from North Carolina. But as some breweries are beginning to package beer in plastic-wrapped cans, Estill has been forced to stop selling some products. “I’m not going to carry plastic because they’re not recyclable and I don’t want products on my shelf that I’m selling to consumers that can’t be recycled.” Although the assessment can be difficult to attain, Estill recommends that all companies use B Corp’s free impact assessment tool. “It’s like holding up a mirror to your company, staring in the mirror for a while,” says Estill. “I think everybody who’s in business should do it just as a learning experience.” CLIMATE NEUTRAL When leaders from Appalachian Gap Distillery surveyed organizations focused on carbon neutrality, they gravitated toward Climate Neutral because it was associated with consumer-facing products, including some that shared their same ethos. Another important factor was Climate Neutral’s user-friendly Brand Emissions Estimator, an online tool that helps companies measure their carbon footprints from cradle to customer. That includes Scope 1 (direct greenhouse gas emissions like fuel for vehicles and natural gas), Scope 2 (indirect emissions like purchased electricity) and Scope 3 (upstream and downstream emissions that are essentially the Scope 1 and 2 emissions for other businesses in a company’s supply chain). The measurement process revealed that the distillery could reduce emissions from powering its steam system by switching from natural gas to renewable natural gas derived largely from local farms. It also revealed the depth of Scope 3 emissions. “We realized that our Scope 3 emissions were about three times as large as our direct emissions from the distillery,” says Drucker, “which were predominantly natural gas and commuting, driving to farmers markets, driving to visit new markets. And those are harder emissions because we can’t control those directly, not until trucking fleets electrify or use renewable natural gas or biogas.” The initial certification process took several months, and Appalachian Gap (and all brands certified Climate Neutral) must repeat the process annually to recertify. The distillery offset the equivalent of 59 metric tons of carbon dioxide by purchasing carbon credits, which will support nature-based projects such as encouraging sustainable agriculture and protecting important ecosystems. The

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