‘World’s most sustainable spirit’: the vodka made with CO2 captured from air
Critics call the ‘carbon-negative’ drink a distraction but makers say it points a way forward to tackling the climate crisis
(The Guardian) – The disastrous consequences of the unfolding climate crisis is enough to drive some people to drink, so making alcohol from planet-heating gases is perhaps a logical next step.
A company in New York City has created what it calls the “world’s most sustainable spirit” by making a vodka out of carbon dioxide that has been captured from the air. The 40% proof drink, appropriately called Air vodka, removes a pound of CO2 from the atmosphere for each bottle made, its maker has claimed.
The Air Company, which started manufacturing the vodka from a Brooklyn plant in 2019, produces about 5,000 cases of the product a year, with a new factory planned to ramp up production. The business, which was a finalist in Elon Musk’s Xprize, hopes to be at the vanguard of companies that create things from captured CO2 – other uses include the reinforcing of concrete and the production of materials to replace certain plastics and metals.
“People thought we were batshit crazy when we started – some still do, I think,” said Gregory Constantine, an Australian entrepreneur who started the climate-friendly distillery with Stafford Sheehan. The duo claim that traditionally made vodka, which involves the fermentation of grains, releases about 15lb of CO2 for each bottle made.
The Air Company takes CO2, either sucked directly from the air or captured at source at industrial facilities, and combines it with hydrogen created through electrolysis – the process where electricity is used to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The technology used to merge these elements creates ethanol which, when combined with water, becomes a vodka.
This same ethanol is also used to make a hand sanitizer and, from this week, is being deployed by the Air Company to create a new fragrance called Air Eau de Parfum.
The Guardian attended a pop-up storefront in Manhattan, populated by company staff wearing white lab coats, to see the first ever batch of CO2-free perfume, which has a faint citrus odor, be dispensed into a vial. The vodka was also available to drink – it has a clean, clear taste and would be hard to differentiate from more traditionally made vodkas.