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Which Is Greener: Boxed Wine or Bottled?

Mindy Pennybacker, author of "Do One Green Thing" and editor of GreenerPenny.com, answers your green living questions. 

Q: Is Boxed Wine a More Eco-Friendly Choice than Bottled?

A: Yes, if you're only counting carbon footprints: Fewer fossil fuels are burned and hence less carbon dioxide is released by shipping cartons vs heavy glass -- but the whole picture, like the taste of a fine wine, is more complex. Here's what to consider: 

Is the Wine Certified Organic or Biodynamic? 
In 2009, researchers at the University of Thessalonika in Greece reported that organic viticulture significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions compared with conventional grape growing because it's free of fossil-fuel-derived pesticides and fertilizers. Organic and biodynamic cultivation also keep these toxic, polluting chemicals out of local ecosystems and waterways.

How Green Was Its Journey?
How Far and by what Method Did the Wine Travel to Reach You? A study in The Journal of Wine Research found that wine's greatest carbon footprint comes from shipping. Choose wine produced nearest to you, or that came by boat rather than truck or air freight. For example, if you live east of the Mississippi River, it's greener to buy French, which comes to you by sea; if west, go for California wines. 

How is the Wine Packaged? 
Cardboard is lighter than glass when it comes to fuel miles, but check whether that wine box is made of recycled paper; cutting virgin trees makes for distinctly ungreen packaging. And, is the carton recyclable when you're done with it? Some wines are packaged in Tetra-paks, which are recyclable in many places. Check with your municipal solid waste department or at Earth911.org

A green winner: Organic wine packaged in Tetra Pak, such as Yellow + Blue wine from Argentina, which packs half the carbon weight of a glass-bottled conventional wine from that country.

For green-living tips on other topics, read more advice from Mindy.

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