Published 3 years ago.
About a 8 minute read.
Image: Air Co.
Or, how to expand your conscious consumerism to include anti-waste cocktails, carbon-negative nightcaps and a hard kombucha that’s easy on the environment.
Image credit: Air Co.
Brooklyn-based startup Air Co. has invented a
proprietary technology that uses solar power to capture excess carbon from the
air and transform it into things of value — in this case, what it calls “the
highest-quality, purest alcohol on the planet.” Last month, the company emerged
after two years of research and development to announce its first consumer
product: Air Vodka. The sustainable spirit allows New York City drinkers to
help foster a cleaner future with every cocktail, as each bottle of vodka
removes a pound of CO2 from the atmosphere — equivalent to the daily CO2 intake
of eight trees.
Unlike traditional vodka — which is typically made by fermenting grains such as
corn, potato and wheat (though a particularly ingenious version,
is made from whey — a waste byproduct of the cheese-making process) — Air
Vodka has only two ingredients (carbon dioxide and water), which the company’s
patented, solar-powered technology converts into beverage-grade ethanol; the
resulting spirit has no carbs, sugar or gluten; and is, by nature, carbon
“Rather than going to the commodity market with the ethanol that we were
creating, we looked at the value proposition from the price point of where
high-purity ethanol is highest,” CEO Gregory Constantine, who previously did
marketing for Diageo’s Smirnoff brand vodka, told Forbes in a recent
“And it just so happens that man-made vodka is where that premium is.”
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It’s also unlike conventional vodkas in that it removes carbon from the air,
rather than adding to it — the typical vodka-production process creates around
13 pounds of greenhouse gases, according to Fast
And, as the founders told Forbes, the company has carefully thought out its
supply chain: They start with carbon dioxide captured from local polluters
(importing pollution defeats the purpose), including other distillers — as CO2
is a byproduct of fermentation, the traditional production method for most
As co-founder and CTO Stafford Sheehan, an electrochemist, told Fast
Air Co’s process is “inspired by photosynthesis in nature, where plants breathe
in CO2. They take up water, and they use energy in the form of sunlight to make
things like sugars and to make other higher-value hydrocarbons, with oxygen as
the sole by-product. Same thing with its process: The only by-product is
And since the whole process runs on solar power, “the overall lifecycle carbon
intensity of all the energy that we use is minimized; and in the end, we get a
product that is net carbon negative,” Sheehan said.
Air Co — which says it plans to expand to perfumes and other consumer-facing
ethanol-based products — is one of eight finalists (along with a team that
includes Newlight Technologies – creators of
in the $20 million NRG COSIA Carbon
XPRIZE – a global competition to
develop breakthrough technologies that will convert CO₂ emissions from power
plants and industrial facilities into valuable products like building materials,
alternative fuels and other items that we use every day. The winner will be
announced in fall 2020.
Image credit: JuneShine/Facebook
Meanwhile, on the West coast, San Diego-based JuneShine hard kombucha is not only organic and smoother than most other kombuchas on the market (it’s made from a milder jun kombucha, brewed with green tea and honey vs black tea and sugar), the company was founded with a mission to offer the first honest, transparent alcohol brand catering to consumers with healthy, active lifestyles. Their range of flavored brews have no artificial coloring, GMOs, pesticides, or processed corn or rice syrup.
Aside from healthier products, the company has an impressive list of sustainability goals and initiatives, including:
donating 1% of all sales to 1% For The
helping motivate one of its suppliers to get USDA Organic certified because
of its purchasing power
use 100% organic ingredients in its products
buying an iconic, used brewery and upcycling it to make it its own
treating its wastewater before it goes back into the system
only using glassware in its breweries, no plasticware
using a large display menu, not paper menus
using recycled paper products
supporting the sustainability efforts of its ambassador
team of athletes, artists and
changemakers with over 2M in reach
sourcing organic, local products for its restaurant
switching from plastic six-pack holders to six-pack cartons
planting trees to replace the trees used to make its cartons
using printed cans rather than plastic-wrapped cans
recycling water used for its brewery lawns
using all renewable energy in its breweries
reducing plastic in its supply chain (moving away from plastic-wrapped keg
into its business and products
meeting with alcohol industry leaders to find ways to be even more
The brand also has a unique ambassador program. But instead of the traditional
influencer model, where you pay an attractive stranger with a ton of followers
for a social media post, JuneShine handpicked a family of world-class athletes,
artists and creatives — including Sage
Werner and Hilary
Kearney — all of whom share the
same core values: adventure, sustainability and transparency.
United by their passion for conscious lifestyles, each co-owner ambassador has
invested his/her own money into the brand, are hands-on in shaping the product
and telling the story, and have played a key role in a number of JuneShine’s
eco-initiatives — including the brand’s commitment to non-profit 1% for the
Planet and the planting of trees to replace what is used in its paperboard
Image credit: Trash Tiki/Facebook
And, coming soon to a city near you, if you’re lucky: Trash
Tiki is an anti-waste, touring, punk pop-up bar
— the brainchild of married bartenders Kelsey Ramage and Iain Griffiths.
Launched at the end of 2016, Trash Tiki has become the bartender’s resource
for all things environmentally minded.
As the couple explains on its website, they had noticed the topic of
sustainability in the bar scene becoming overly complicated — something that
supposedly only high-end bars could attempt to master. Having already amassed a
pile of creative, anti-waste recipes of their own (ex: from something as
simple as turning fruit rinds and pulp into citrus
flavored syrups; to more ambitious
such as boiling day-old croissants into simple syrup, whipping leftover coffee
shop milk into whey, and sauteeing and straining avocado pits for their nutty
flavor) they found this frustrating; knowing that every bar — no matter its
size, equipment list or cocktail program — could be tackling the global food
waste issue that craft cocktail bars have a hand in creating.
So, the idea arose for an online platform to share recipes and waste-saving
ideas for bars; but the tidal wave of response quickly led them to launch a
series a pop-ups — and now, the couple travels the world, making customized
cocktails out of leftover items salvaged from local bars, restaurants, coffee
shops and other businesses in whatever city in which they find themselves. As
the couple told the New York Times in a recent
single-use waste is just a lack of creativity.
“As soon as a waste item is created, you’re meant to create the second recipe,”
Ramage told the NYT. “Chefs have been doing it for centuries. It’s always been
there. We’re just talking about it in a different way.”
The couple acknowledges that achieving
“zero waste” in the bar industry is currently nearly impossible, given the
amount of packaging around alcoholic products. What they want to encourage is,
instead of using something once and then throwing it away (for example,
juicing), trying to give items a second or third purpose before they get tossed.
While they don’t have any current tour
dates online, you can experience
Trash Tiki at its new home at Toronto’s Supernova
Ballroom. There, the company sources local, seasonal ingredients; and continues its
anti-waste crusade: Bartenders, for example, forgo fresh lemon juice for liquid
made by fermenting lemon rinds, which are donated from a nearby juice company.
To have a greater respect for the products we use and consume, end the
20th-century practice of using single-use ingredients, and do all that with a
light hearted, fun and hospitable attitude — that is what Trash Tiki stands for.
Published Dec 10, 2019 1pm EST / 10am PST / 6pm GMT / 7pm CET