World's first carbon-negative vodka says the spirits sector is 'ripe for disruption'

By Beth Newhart contact

- Last updated on GMT

“Our long-term goal is to develop our own brand products in each category where we see an opportunity to disrupt the existing infrastructure." Pics: Air Co.
“Our long-term goal is to develop our own brand products in each category where we see an opportunity to disrupt the existing infrastructure." Pics: Air Co.

Related tags: spirits, Vodka, Research and development, Technology, liquor, Sustainability, Alcohol, Cocktails

A US start-up has created vodka quite literally from thin air – using solar power to convert carbon from the air and convert it into alcohol. It’s now working with NASA to look at other opportunities for capturing carbon.

About two years ago, Gregory Constantine, a former spirits executive, co-founded Air Co. with Stafford Sheehan, a Yale PhD who developed the technology. It uses solar power to capture excess carbon from the air and convert it into alcohol.

Brooklyn-based Air Co. says the new product is the world's first carbon negative vodka, as well as the cleanest, healthiest and highest quality vodka on the market. It’s made from just carbon dioxide and water, and claims to improve the air and ‘redefine conscious consumption.’

airco 2

Constantine and Sheehan told BeverageDaily that the process removes one pound of carbon per bottle from the atmosphere, while traditional vodka fermentation methods emit about 13 pounds of carbon per bottle. They said it uses the same principles as photosynthesis in plants, but more efficiently.

“The spirits category is one that we know and it’s one that is ripe for disruption. Vodka is one of the most oversaturated markets without an emphasis on innovation,” ​the duo said.

“Our long-term goal is to develop our own brand products in each category where we see an opportunity to disrupt the existing infrastructure. Within the consumer lifestyle space, this could mean fragrances, home cleaning and more.”

With the potential to bring the tech to other consumer goods, Air Co. wants to help build a cleaner and more sustainable future for the planet. It said that it has already established a research and development relationship with NASA and other industrial partners.

Ethical, transparent and sustainable benefits

For now, Air Co. said the $65 bottle of vodka will only be available in New York City as shipping and transportation are a major contributor to carbon emissions. Long-term, products made with the Air Co. technology can help combat climate change. The more produced, the more carbon dioxide can be removed from the air.

It taps into the massive trend of consumers concerned with their carbon footprint and that of the goods they purchase. More ethical, transparent and sustainable supply chains are now important factors in marketing everything from alcohol to dairy.

In choosing an eco-friendly spirit, consumers must consider all factors and ingredients--the agriculture industry produces barley, agave, potatoes, grapes and more; all result in water waste and carbon emissions from shipping; and most alcohol production uses a lot of heat energy.

Generally, the higher the ABV of a drink, the more carbon it releases into the atmosphere. Packaging has also proved to be a major problem. Booze brands have already begun upgrading their packaging to more sustainable alternatives, ditching plastic rings and bottles​ in favor of recyclable paper​, aluminum and glass.

Air Co. is another step further in the battle against climate change, and the brand said it has received awards for its distilling methods from NASA, The United Nations and X-Prize, which is the world’s largest carbon technology competition.

Constantine and Sheehan think the larger beverage industry is moving in the right direction toward sustainable production solutions, but more needs to be done.

“We believe the industry at-large sees the benefit of sustainable solutions, but it may just take time to get there at scale.”

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