Planting a tree for every T-shirt, bag of coffee, or other product sold isn’t exactly a new idea. But for LA-based Greenbar Distillery, the simple act of planting a tree for each bottle of organic spirits sold changed the company’s entire mindset.
“It’s common in our cultures to plant a tree when a child is born. We think of our bottles as our children,” said Litty Matthew, co-founder of Greenbar Distillery. “So it started as a small gesture that’s changed how we think of what our responsibilities are.”
Since 2008, Greenbar Distillery has planted more than 889,536 trees throughout rainforests in Central American through Sustainable Harvest International. But Greenbar Distillery’s sustainability goes beyond simple tree planting. The company has audited the carbon it produces while making its gin, whiskey, rum, and other products to create the smallest possible carbon footprint it can and give back more than it takes.
“For Greenbar Distillery, sustainability has come to mean something quite radical. We don’t simply want to waste less. As a civilization, we’ve taken much too much from nature for taking less to be a viable option anymore. It’s time to put back more than we take — a philosophy that we’ve built into our business model,” said co-founder Melkon Khosrovian.
For instance, Greenbar Distillery knows it creates 2.5 kilograms of greenhouse gases to make and ship a bottle of spirits. They’ve focused on reducing packaging waste and pollution by avoiding certain things such as plastics and metallic paints while also using lightweight bottles and post-consumer waste recycled labels. Simultaneously, they say they remove 792 kilograms of the same greenhouse gases by planting a tree per bottle sold. On a net basis, Khosrovian and Matthew say Greenbar Distillery helps remove 315 times more greenhouse gases than it creates.
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“The net positive impact doesn’t end with us,” Khosrovian said. “Our impact is so radically carbon negative that when our customers drink a cocktail with 1.5 oz of any of our spirits, they become carbon negative for a day.”
Khosrovian and Matthew came to the spirits industry as novices. Khosrovian started creating infused spirits hoping that Matthew, his then-fiancé, would find them more palatable than the harsher liquor served during his Armenian family celebrations. The couple founded Greenbar Distillery in 2004, remaining traditional spirits with a focus on figuring out how to extract and capture clean, rich flavors.
They didn’t start with organic ingredients but converted their entire company to organic ingredients after noticing organic produce created more flavorful spirits.
“In the summer and fall of 2007, we began to notice that some batches started to taste different even though we used the same ingredients from the same farmers in similar proportions to make the same spirits. Something was way too strong and forced us to remake the batches,” Khosrovian said.
After triple-checking their records, they contacted the farm to discover what was going on and found they had recently changed some of their lands to organic farming and got the first organic harvests.
“They told us these healthier, heartier plants produced more aroma and flavor for their own survival. We noticed,” said Khosrovian. “We may have first seen this flavor change through the prism of frustration. But we soon recognized it for what it really was — our key to making better, more flavorful spirits for our customers to enjoy.”
Their commitment to sustainable practices is built into everything they do, and they hope to inspire more companies to build social good into their products and services.
“Particularly in this age of nonstop sharing, connecting good deeds to ordinary commerce and then shining the world’s collective cell phones on them can produce amazing results for humanity,” said Matthew.