The Scotch whisky industry is a massive contributor to the UK’s economy, with sales totaling over $7.5 billion last year. However, the industry’s carbon footprint is significant, with distilleries emitting CO2 directly into the atmosphere.
The good news is that the industry has been making strides in reducing its carbon emissions.
Since 2009, it has cut emissions by more than half and now runs on 39% renewable energy.
Now, all 140 distilleries in Scotland have pledged to become carbon neutral by 2040, a decade earlier than the UK as a whole.
This goal will not be easy to achieve, but the distilleries are already working towards it. They are sourcing local barley and avoiding using peat to flavor their product, which is one of the world’s best sources of carbon sequestration.
Going green is not just an ideology for the industry, but also a matter of economics. As one distiller said, “If the industry doesn’t change, we will lose younger generations.”
The distilleries have some advantages in their bid to become carbon neutral. They have deep pockets and are part of a tradition that goes back centuries, so they think in decades. They can also benefit from Scotland’s shift to renewables and have the financial resources to experiment with net-zero technologies.
While the industry has made progress, there is still work to be done. Many distilleries still run on fossil fuels; some have had mixed results with their net-zero experiments. For example, one distillery tried an anaerobic digestion system to produce fuel but failed. Another distillery is exploring installing its own electrolyzer to make hydrogen, but it does not have the permits, engineering, or funding yet.
One of the early decisions the Nc’nean distillery made was not to flavor their spirits by burning peat during the kilning of the malt. While peat is central to the deep traditions of many Scotch whiskies, it is also a precious resource that stores carbon for centuries. The challenge is to find sustainable ways to produce whisky without compromising the environment.
The Scotch whisky industry’s pledge to become carbon neutral by 2040 is a significant step towards sustainability.
While there are challenges to overcome, the industry has the resources and determination to achieve its goal. With the right technology and practices, the industry can continue to thrive while reducing its impact on the environment.