Monday, February 1, 2010

Lighten Up!

Decanter reports that the world's lightest wine bottle will be on the shelves in UK supermarket Tesco this week. At 300g, the lightweight bottle has nearly 30% less glass than the average Tesco own-label wine bottle, creating less carbon emissions, both in production and in transportation. (Most wine bottles weigh in at 650g but some come in at well over a kilogram!) The 300g bottle has the same impact resistance as Tesco’s standard bottle.

For several years now, Tesco (the world’s third largest retailer) has been pushing its wine suppliers to use lighter-weight bottles. Suppliers listen to big retailers. Wal Mart is renown for “persuading” suppliers to do its bidding, which can work wonders when used in socially responsible causes.

So I have to ask, what is the LCBO doing? After all, they are the world’s largest purchaser of wine and spirits. First stop was the LCBO website, where they do have an “Enviro Report”…from 2007. Time for an enviro update, LCBO folks! There is a video there about alternative packaging. It’s focussed on non-glass alternatives: tetra-paks, PET (polyethylene terephthalate), and aluminium. I guess these alternatives are OK for plonk, but convincing wine producers or consumers that wine belongs in any of them is an uphill battle. So, I asked them, what is the LCBO (and Vintages) doing to encourage its wine and spirit producers to use lighter-weight bottles? Is bottle weight a factor in wines that the LCBO purchases for its stores, on-line exclusives, or Classics Catalogue?

I received replies from 2 different people at the LCBO. Here’s the first one:
The LCBO is actively seeking to source products that minimize the use of glass in bottles. In its most recent product call notice, Vintages has indicated to agents and suppliers that they are interested in purchasing products bottled in lightweight glass. Within our General Purchase Wines category, priority is also [to] be given to products packaged in lightweight glass. In our General Purchase Spirits and Beers category, agents and suppliers have been advised that special consideration will be given to products in environmentally-friendly packaging.

Sounds good, if not very assertive.

Ultimately, it’s up to us consumers to put more pressure on the LCBO and Vintages, and on wine producers. Every time you go shopping for wine, make bottle weight a consideration in your purchase. A heavyweight bottle may imply quality to a gullible consumer, but, in fact, you'll rarely find high-end wines in those glass doorstops: they’re just a 3 dressed up as a 9. Leave that Schwarzenegger of a bottle on the shelf; go for the Woody Allen.

And here’s an idea for the LCBO. Help us consumers make an informed decision. Just like you’re identifying organic wines, why not identify the environmentally responsible choice of lightweight bottles in the store and in the Vintage offerings?

I’ll keep my eye out for wines in lightweight bottles and let you know about them. It’s one more way to reduce our carbon footprint.

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