Saving the Planet: Can We Do It One Drink at a Time?
I was at physical therapy a few weeks ago and I was talking about Scarlett. For whatever reason I mentioned that time Scarlett said “I hope aliens on other planets don’t use fossil fuels.” Yeah that actually came out of her mouth. Anyway it got me on the subject of a wine tasting we did on sustainable wines and how bad most of them were. This post started out as a review of those wines but took a different turn when the physical therapist said “yeah I don’t think anyone our age can actually make the changes we need to in order to save the planet.”
I’m going to quickly review the three wines and then I’ll get on my soapbox about how unmovable we are as a society. Myself included.
I’ll start with the worst and move to the best. First, there was a wine from New Zealand, Yealands Pinot Noir. This vineyard claims to be the greenest vineyard in the world. Rather than lawnmowers they use Babydoll sheep who aren’t tall enough to reach the grapes but constantly graze the grass. They plant wild flowers that attract the right predator insects who eat the insects who eat the grapes. They’re almost entirely solar powered and were the first vineyard to be certified CarboNZero.
I was excited to try this because I love New Zealand Sauv Blancs but this wine was absolutely awful. It has savory earth notes that kind of just tasted like dirt. We convinced ourselves at first that we had a bad bottle but reviews online led us to believe we were tasting all the intended notes and we just hated it. The wine has mediocre reviews but people rave about this environmentally friendly and beautiful vineyard. The wine is relatively inexpensive at $18.99.
The next wine was a red Rhone blend from Chateau Maris, La Touge. The winery is located in Languedoc-Roussillon in the south of France. This wine growing region has stagnated due to overproduction and the decimation of the grapes and the soil. Robert Eden, the owner and head winemaker, came in and used green growing and production methods to naturally revive the land. I like Syrah and Grenache blends and this wine was just fine. Nothing special but nothing horrible. It is also just under $20 which is slightly concerning given the export costs from France. The quality reflected the price in my opinion.
Finally we had Iron Horse Ocean Reserve Blanc de Blanc. It has a beautiful label with a National Geographic underwater photo of a sea turtle swimming in the big blue. This Sonoma sparkling wine was quite good, and if you know me you know I tend to not love Sonoma wines. Here’s the thing, this wine cost $55 and that’s quite high for a Sonoma Chardonnay based wine. Ah but wait, $4 of every bottle goes to National Geographic’s Ocean Initiative and the price reflects that. Their Brut Reserve is around $48. In other words they’re just collecting $4 from you when you buy it rather than giving part of their proceeds to charity.
So to summarize, the worst wine was made sustainably and the best wine forced my hand at donating to ocean preservation. I think this juxtaposition is very representative of society. Who’s seen the show The Politician on Netflix? In the second season a young politician runs for a New York State Senate seat and in order to attract young voters he makes the environment his platform. To secure the endorsement of an Instagram famous young environmentalist he is forced to live a carbon neutral life and he finds it practically impossible to do. Cold showers and recycling the water, carrying his own utensils, plates, storage containers everywhere and never using plastic or paper when eating, etc. etc. He made a lot of the changes but it was painful and there were some things he just couldn’t give up. Of the 45 or so items on the list the only one I really do is use glass storage containers.
Yes I have loads of silicone straws, but I rarely remember to take them with me. I do use the straw free lids at Starbucks, but my cup is plastic and I get the plastic straw for Scarlett’s frappuccinos. I always throw them in the trash rather than a stream so there’s that. I still cut up the plastic thingies that hold the Gatorade bottles together, in plastic bottles, because of those horrible stuck duck photos we saw in the 1990s. I also don’t leave the water on when I brush my teeth like we were taught in the 1990s but I love a hot 20 minute shower. Am I a terrible person? Do I hate the Earth? Maybe the physical therapist is right and we’re just too old and set in our ways to save the planet.
While I was annoyed with Iron Horse for claiming they were donating profits when they were really just price adjusting to cover those costs I think that’s probably the best way to get our generation to help the environment. Think of it like a carbon tax. I have to pay for my refusal to drink sustainable wine. Financial incentives tend to be more successful than relying on human beings to be altruistic. I could cite a dozen economic studies pointing to this but I don’t think I need to. I think the majority of my readers are just nodding their head along with me. Drink bad wine that’s good for the planet or pay for the right to drink wine that is bad for the planet.
Reflecting on the reviews of Yealands vineyard that praise it’s environmental impact rather than the quality of their wine tells me there is money to be made simply through the act of doing good and then of course the sense of self-satisfaction for being altruistic which is hard to measure in dollars. But for most of us, forcing us to be philanthropic with imposed taxes on our purchases, is probably the best we’ll do. I wonder if my almost 10 year old will one day realize the negative impact that plastic cup and straw from Starbucks have on the planet and decide to only make her milkshakes at home in a glass blender with whatever form of milk is considered the most environmentally friendly at the time. I wonder if she’ll learn somewhere the impact of a 20 minute hot shower and switch to a quick cold shower. Or is it already too late for Generation Z because Millennials taught them to love Starbucks too? Do as I say, not as I do is usually ineffective. Only time will tell.