Samuel Scott thinks outside the bottle to drink the good stuff while still doing the right thing by our planet.
As we mindlessly descend into the inevitable doom of a full-blown climate crisis, isn’t it nice to look for little ways to offset our guilt, if not actually make the brutal, systemic changes needed to avoid a global catastrophe. Personally, I don’t want the world to end, but I also want, nay need, delicious things. Thankfully, some retailers are taking measures to ensure it doesn’t have to be one or the other.
On these shores Goodfor Wholefoods Refillery has been making the most bold attempts to reduce the packaging of your shop. We’re all getting used to remembering our burlap bags when we go to the supermarket, right? So can we also remember our jars, Tupperware and bottles? There might be an element of middle-class posturing in this type of shopping, and in no way is it an accessible option to all New Zealanders, but it’s still better than doing nothing and it’s also just not that hard.
Goodfor also has chocolate-coated freeze-dried strawberries next to the checkout. If it starts selling matcha white chocolate-dipped ones like you get at Muji then I might never shop anywhere else.
Beer was the real trailblazer in packaging-free shopping in New Zealand. Regional Wines has been supplying Wellingtonians with local brews on tap since before we were even calling it ‘craft beer’, and it’s now available in a huge number of locations. It’s such good value and in a market where the costs of the premium local product are so much higher than the commercial stuff, it makes a lot of sense to rinse that bottle out and keep it in the back of the Prius for those times you happen to drive past New New New in Dunedin, Cassels in Christchurch, Parrot Dog in Wellington, Hallertau in Auckland (need I go on to the provinces?). It has never been easier to buy fresh, local, high-quality beer.
But what of wine? Are we prepared to forgo the feeling of luxury you get with a beautiful bottle of wine and fill up any old thing with fermented grape juice from a keg? Well, consider this: for a conventional bottle of wine the packaging can be up to 46% of its carbon footprint. These figures seem to shift from report to report and are clearly different in different regions with different recycling practices, but it’s clearly a big part of the picture.
Letting go of our enchantment with the bottle and embracing refills is no longer something that can be ignored. Wellington natural wine store Everyday Wine claims to be the first retailer with wine on tap. Buying Unkel (Nelson) and Jumpin’ Juice (Oz legend Patrick Sullivan’s affordable brand) organic, additive- free wine on tap at less than $30 a litre offers the consumer a good deal on a really interesting product that has a smaller impact on the environment.
Co-owner Cosmo Hawke says, “Our challenge now is to convince more winemakers to step out of their comfort zone.” I imagine many of the top New Zealand natural producers will get on board, but the real zeitgeist will be when the megasaurus producers join in.
Garage Project has followed its Everyday Wine buds into the tap- wine retail world at their Aro Street and Kingsland stores, again offering a significant discount on the bottled price. GP Crushed is also trialling its skin-contact Fairy Bread wine range in cans (also a much lower carbon option than glass) and, with its proven track-record for making consumers fall head-over-heels for some bonkers beer concepts, it might just be the right brand to get people popping cans of wine at their next dinner party. “Wine in cans and on tap makes sense to producers, consumers and the environment,” says GP founder Jos Ruffell. “There is no reason why we can’t sell a premium wine in a can. It feels fun and disruptive, both to wine traditionalists and to the RTD world, but it also just makes sense.”
Tap wine has been on the menu at Auckland restaurant Depot for a few years now, but despite Al Brown’s considerable influence over the New Zealand dining scene it’s been fairly slow to catch on. At the time of writing only eight restaurants served wine on tap. The most thorough tap programme is at Sherwood in Queenstown, which has more than seven wines on tap at any one time, six of them local enough to be delivered directly to the restaurant from the winemakers. It is conveniently located just a stone’s throw from some world-class grape juice, but it’s still a massive sign that things can actually change. It’s also allowed Sherwood to buy wines on keg before fining, filtration and sulphur additions, thus creating their own little one-off wine offerings.
With raw milk vending machines popping up around the country, I look forward to seeing what packaging-free products appear next. Commonsense Organics has been repping the refill life for years but it would be nice to see premium-brand market leaders like Farro Fresh and Moore Wilson’s get in on the act, perhaps with local olive oil (a product we would appreciate paying a little less for).
I’d love to see the big supermarket chains do a whole lot more. They, after all, have the financial resources to give it a go and have the most to lose if we all get our heads out of the sand and try a little harder to be conscious consumers.