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April 22, 2009

What's beer for the Earth: Bottled or boxed wine?

wine wine wine!

In honor of Earth Day (and drinking), I thought I might pose a few environmental questions. Yesterday, the consensus seemed to be that Baltimore really didn't have many -- if any -- green bars.

I'm not surprised.

But under the green bar post, Ted said that glass is biodegradable. Heh. That's technically true. I hear it takes more than a few (hundred) years for glass to dissolve, though.

Same thing goes for plastic. 

With that in mind, here is my Earth Day question: What is better for the environment -- bottled or boxed wine? ...

Think about it. Both forms kill trees. Boxed wine, is, well, boxed. And the corks in bottled wines come from, well, the cork oak tree. Here is a potential game-changer: Not only is boxed wine boxed, but it's wrapped in that plastic skin.

It's been a while since I've had boxed wine, but I think bottles and boxes have the same amount of vino in them. Right?

So which one leaves a bigger carbon footprint? Which one kills more trees? 

Since wine can come from so many places, and the distance traveled can make a difference in the carbon footprint, let's assume we're comparing boxed and bottled wine from France. Wait, no, I hate France. Let's make it Italy.


(AP photo)

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Posted by Sam Sessa at 8:38 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Bars & Clubs


Probably boxed wine,
demostrated what was required in the making of plastic is much more polluting and requires more resources given the information learned at Green Day Convention recently. The consensus of exhibitors and speakers there favored glass.

Also some plastics impart substances* to the product they contain which you really don't want in your body, which makes one wonder what the toxic effects of the end product after biodegrading on the environment.

* exceedingly small amount that accumulate in your body over time.

I think you are failing to think about the poor, helpless grapes. They got killed, too. You have no soul, Sessa.

mmm, beer for earth

The glass wine bottle is hopelessly inefficient. It is a weird size so that many bottles have to be opened for one dinner with friends. It is heavy, so shipping is expensive. The odd shape doesn't pack well so fewer bottles take up more room in a container.

Sam--there is actually some decent boxed wine that is available now, and some of it comes in a recycled cardboard box (which is the recycleable again), with a plastic pouch inside that keeps the wine good for up to 6 weeks after opening. The box is lighter than a bottle, and most boxes hold the equivalent of 3 liters (or 4 bottles of wine), making boxed wine more eco friendly to ship, even if it is coming from some far away place like France. So boxed wine wins hands down.

On the green bar front--I think no bar in Baltimore is even close to being green since most of them throw away their bottles--it's just too much hassle for them to recycle since the city doesn't pick up recycling weekly. And a plastic or glass bottle in a plastic trash bag in a modern sealed lanfill is NEVER going to break down.

Lots of wineries (especially in Australia, NZ and South Africa) are going to screw tops on their bottles because a) it saves cork, and b) it actually preserves/regulates the wine better.
I'm still laughing at Ted's "glass is biodegradable / recycling isn't all that" comment!

You could make the argument for both. Shipping and inventory gets caught up with bottles. Much of the corks are now being switched with screwtop or plastic. Overall, I'd say boxed, much of the stuff can be recycled, it takes smaller amounts of space, fits more in, and is cheaper.

I think BAC has a good rationale for supporting the city's idea of creating a weekly recycling program. I think a larger portion of bars and restaurants would recycle if it was weekly. The 2nd and 4th thing (as long as there is no holiday) just doesn't cut it. A side benefit would be that I wouldn't be awoken by the crashing of bottles into the WM truck at the bar across the street in the early morning any longer...

probably anything with rubbing alcohol in it. that's like organic alcohol, right?

dave "mmm, beer for earth"

sounds like a good trade to me....

The really "green idea" would be limit your imbibing to locally produced products of my any sort, so the effects of shipping left near zero carbon footprint.

Does the convienence plastics out weight the greater pollution and waste in their creation really supersede using glass.

and to repeat
Also some plastics impart substances* to the product they contain which you really don't want in your body, which makes one wonder what the toxic effects of the end product after biodegrading on the environment.

* exceedingly small amount that accumulate in your body over time.

Actually the cork trees are not killed or harmed to make the wine stoppers. They are harvested every 9 years, live for 200 years and help aid in biodiversity. Cork forests are responsible for retaining CO2 from the atmosphere.
Have you seen the "Save Miguel" campaign? Check out the video at and help the cause. Feel free to visit our blog at to get some insight on this subject.


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About Erik Maza
Erik Maza is a features reporter at the Baltimore Sun. He writes for several sections of the Sun paper and contributes weekly columns on music and nightlife. He also writes and edits the Midnight Sun blog. He often covers entertainment, business, and the business of entertainment. Occasionally, he writes about Four Loko, The Block, the liquor board, and those who practice "simulated sex with a potted palm tree." Before The Sun, he was a reporter at the Miami New Times. He's also written for Miami magazine, the Orlando Sentinel, the Sarasota Herald Tribune and the Gainesville Sun. Got tips? Gripes? Pitches? He's reachable at Click here to keep up with the dumb music he's listening to.

Midnight Sun covers Baltimore music, live entertainment, and nightlife news. On the blog, you'll find, among other things, concert announcements, breaking news, bars closings and openings, up-to-date coverage of crime in nightlife, new music, round-the-clock coverage of Virgin Mobile FreeFest, handy guides on bars staying open past 2 a.m. on New Year's Eve and those that carry Natty Boh on draft. Recurring features include seven-day nightlife guides, Concert News, guest reviews of bars and concerts, Wednesday Corkboard, and photo galleries, as well as reader-submitted photos. Thanks for reading.

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