James Grugeon

We all know we should drink responsibly, which here at The Fifth Estate we like to think can include considering the environmental impact of the booze you choose. Luckily, that doesn’t mean we have to commit to a future of only water.

Your drinks list might want to include a few bottles from what is believed to be Australia’s first certified carbon-neutral winery, for example.

Pangolin Associates worked with Ross Hill Wine Group in Orange, NSW, to help it achieve certification under the National Carbon Offset Standard.

Pangolin Associates managing director Iain Smale said the certification means consumers can trust sustainability claims to be genuine, not greenwash.

“We hear more and more that this is an important part of deciding whether to purchase, or do business with a company.

“NCOS-certified carbon neutrality ensures consumers that Ross Hill has taken extensive, well-planned measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by their business.”

Mr Smale said the winery’s process was a multi-step, multi-year plan.

It moved to pesticide-free production, and began to use natural wild yeast in the manufacturing process.

Peter Robson, chairman of Ross Hill Wine Group, said its environmental policy sees no use of insecticides, and reduced irrigation impact through a program of mulching cover crops planted between the rows between autumn and winter.

In 2013, Ross Hill installed solar photovoltaic panels, which reduced energy requirements by 26 per cent for the winery and vineyards. Pangolin’s team also introduced new sustainability opportunities, including turning grape marc, the stems, seeds and pulp remains into biodiesel.

Something for later

Beer lovers who also like to do good deeds can look forward to a long cold glass of social conscience in the final weeks of summer, with the launch of a crowd-funded social enterprise beer company.

The Good Beer Co has been founded by James Grugeon, former chief executive of Environmental Protection UK. Mr Grugeon has also had a long career across energy efficiency, renewable energy, climate change activism and social benefit.

He co-launched Powershop, has worked with GetUp! on consumer campaigns around energy, and is currently on the advisory board of the Community Power Agency.

The new enterprise will be donating at least 50 per cent of its profits to good causes, and the first batch of brews will support the Australian Marine Conservation Society’s efforts to save the Great Barrier Reef.

The beer is being brewed by craft beer outfit Bargara Brewing Company, based in Bundaberg, which is regarded as the gateway to the reef. Mr Grugeon said the beer would be a low-carb, premium, easy-drinking beer brewed in an environmentally conscious way.

He said that the crowd-fund campaign has resulted in about $20,000 in pre-orders from individuals for six packs, slabs or vouchers to give as Christmas gifts, and a further $20,000 in pre-orders from companies and organisations.

The aim is to raise $100,000 by 31 December, although he said the go button will be pushed on the brewing on 1 January 2016 to the tune of however much has been raised. Subscribers will be receiving their slabs and six packs around mid-February, he said.

Some craft beer venues have also expressed an interest, and one Brisbane venue has already committed to receiving the beer in kegs from mid-February. Venues in Sydney and Melbourne are also showing an interest.

Mr Grugeon said the plan is to recruit brewers in all states, and also more charities for new beers to support as the “good beer movement” gains momentum. All the breweries will need to look at the lifecycle of their product and brew process, he said.

The company’s sustainability team has also recently been bolstered by Qantas environment lead Flynn Van Ewjik coming on board in a voluntary capacity.

Bargara is already looking at more sustainability initiatives including selling the beer in refillable “growlers” that hold about five pints and can fit in the fridge, and is also looking at how to better manage water and waste water.

Mr Grugeon said the aim is for it and the others that become involved to move towards being carbon neutral, something he said could eventually have a positive influence on the entire Australian beer industry.

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  1. Great article, just thought I would let you know that Cullen Wines have been offetting with us since 2006 and claiming carbon neutral status since then. Although not NCOS approved, Cullen Wines follow the same guidelines and have chosen to offset with more expensive locally produced Gold Standard VERs (1st in Australia!), rather than cheap overseas projects.
    They also follow biodynamic practices and a non-irrigated regime and I would think they are the most sustainable vineyard in Australia, if not the World!
    Warm regards