How 3 Sonoma and Napa county wineries have changed their packaging to help environment
Driving near Sebastopol, Ron Rubin had an epiphany when he saw blue recycling bins parked along the road, a punch of color against the gray pavement.
Blue Bin, the vintner thought, would be the perfect name for his new brand of wine in plastic bottles made from recycled materials.
Eco-packaging is a growing trend among vintners like Rubin of Ron Rubin Winery in Sebastopol. They’re hoping to send a strong message to consumers that they’re actively reducing their carbon footprint, the amount of carbon their business contributes to the environment.
Perhaps the consumers paying the most attention are millennials, the most sought-after market in the wine industry because of their buying power, sheer size and potential to become the next big consumer group for wines.
Research shows green marketing could move the needle with these buyers, now ages 27 to 42 and accounting for 21% of the U.S. population. In a recent Nielsen survey, 75% of millennials said they would change their buying habits to favor environmentally friendly products.
Delving into this unfolding trend of eco-minded packaging, we look at three wineries debuting new containers to reduce their carbon footprints. In addition to Blue Bin, a Sonoma County brand called Revelshine is introducing environmentally friendly aluminum bottles. Meanwhile, Napa Valley’s Honig Winery has a cheeky new advertising campaign to announce it’s stripping foil capsules from around the necks of its bottles.
Launched in June, Blue Bin’s recycled bottle is the best option to reduce the carbon footprint of packaging “because the bottle can be used and enjoyed over and over again,” Rubin said. “The bottles are made from 100% recycled materials.”
The vintner said the bottles are lighter than glass, which means less fuel is needed to transport them. A Blue Bin bottle is 52 grams versus 450 grams for a 750-milliliter glass bottle. It’s lined with a thin layer of glass inside to protect the flavor.
Available in four $15 varietals, the brand features vin rosé, pinot grigio, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc.
Rubin said he hasn’t set the number of cases of Blue Bin he’ll produce.
“That amount will be decided by eco-conscious wine lovers,” he said.
He doesn’t plan to use the plastic bottles for his namesake label, Ron Rubin Wines, which he founded after buying River Road Family Vineyards and Winery in 2011.
Rubin said he first began researching plastic bottles in 2019 and has had a long-standing commitment to sustainable farming. His winery is Sustainable in Practice-certified, with a third-party audit of his vineyard, water and energy management. The winery is also Certified Sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance.
Last year, the Ron Rubin Winery was certified as a B Corporation after a rigorous process overseen and granted by the nonprofit B Lab organization based in Pennsylvania. To achieve certification, companies must score high enough in their environmental commitment, treatment of workers, overall relationship with the local community and customers and their business governance structure.
Yet, despite Rubin’s efforts to be forward thinking, it hasn’t always been smooth sailing.
In March, California River Watch, an environmental nonprofit based in Sebastopol, filed a federal lawsuit alleging that the winery did not obtain a storm-water discharge permit required under the Clean Water Act.
The winery is required to have a permit to discharge stormwater and non-stormwater from their property, according to the complaint. Rubin subsequently hired an engineer to survey the winery’s stormwater system and was able to obtain the needed permit, according to a Wine Business story. California River Watch dismissed the lawsuit in June.
“Our thoughtful innovation and pursuit of continuous improvement and creating products with sustainable purpose started long before this lawsuit,” Rubin said.
With a nod to athletes and the great outdoors, Revelshine in aluminum bottle travels well and offers an environmentally friendly option, said Jake Bilbro, who’s launching the brand now through distributors in many states.
“We chose aluminum bottles because, from a recycling perspective, no other product comes close,” he said.
The reason aluminum is superior to other products in regard to recycling is threefold, Bilbro said. First, aluminum can be recycled an infinite number of times without losing its material viability. Glass and other products can only be recycled so many times before the material breaks down. Second, recycling aluminum equates to a smaller carbon footprint versus glass. Finally, research reveals that consumers are mostly likely to recycle aluminum.