Air Vodka is the world’s first-ever vodka made directly from captured carbon dioxide (CO2). It is produced by Air Company, using a proprietary technology that converts captured CO2 into impurity-free, carbon-negative alcohols and uses it to make consumer products.
The vodka brand launched in New York and the footprint has since expanded across California and Florida, targeting consumers eager for innovation and trendsetting sustainable practices. We spoke to CEO Gregory Constantine on the impact of Air Company’s carbon conversion technology, why consumer education is more important than ever, and how the alcohol industry can convert to a more efficient business model.
What eco-friendly or sustainable practices does your company use?
Everything we do within our business focuses on doing good for our planet and tackling the climate crisis head-on. There are a lot of decisions we make in our processes that demonstrate our unyielding commitment to sustainability. Aside from the basic function of our technology, converting CO2 into carbon-negative and impurity-free alcohols, our system utilizes 100% of its CO2 supply meaning none of it is re-emitted into the atmosphere, and our entire process is powered by renewable (solar and wind) energy.
As we continue to become aware of the challenges our planet is facing and our potential impact, we’re dedicated to continuing to innovate our processes and making the most sustainable product alternatives for consumers, Air Vodka included.
What was your approach to sustainability when you first started your brand and has that developed over time?
Since the beginning of Air Company, we have been striving to be a pioneer in the industry while inspiring others to become more environmentally conscious so that we can all come together to slow the momentum of climate change. That has never changed.
Our goal is to produce higher volumes of our alcohol to provide greater access to our products and to open our technology to industry players for maximum impact. As we grow in the long term and commercialize our technology, we hope that our process can become the new standard for the spirits industry—an industry that has historically been extremely carbon-intensive and in need of innovation.
How do you measure the impact that your sustainable practices have made?
We’ve published peer-reviewed papers and have run life cycle analyses on our system and its production capacity. As a result, our carbon conversion process prevents 1 pound of CO2 from being emitted into the atmosphere for every liter of ethanol produced. To date, our ethanol production alone has utilized more than 6 metric tons of CO2. At scale, our projected impact could ultimately avoid the equivalent of 10.8% of global CO2 emissions, more than 4.6 billion tons of CO2 annually.
How do you communicate your sustainable business practices to partners and consumers?
Education and climate communication are incredibly important to us. There is a gap in general knowledge about climate change and carbon technologies and we are constantly working to overcome that hurdle. Our website and social media platforms are massive engagement and educational tools for us. For example, on our website, we provide a detailed overview of our technology and how it works, the scope of the environmental problem we’re facing today and how we’re seeking to address it. On our technology page, consumers can experience the actual process of making Air Vodka, from carbon capture to physical product. We’re hoping this level of engagement will demonstrate the possibility to transition to carbon-negative standards in the spirits industry.
When consumers purchase sustainable products that they genuinely enjoy, such as our vodka, it allows them to do their part in mitigating the climate crisis. It ultimately helps change consumer behavior. Holding a product in one’s hand that actually cleans the air allows our consumers to become familiar with our technology and learn more about sustainability as a whole. This is why Air Vodka was launched as our proof of concept—to demonstrate how pure of a product we could create while enhancing consumer learning and engagement opportunities as well.
What are some of the impacts your company has seen from being sustainability-focused?
We’ve found that consumers are increasingly interested in buying carbon-negative and environmentally-conscious products, and as such, Air Vodka has been widely successful and impactful. Air Vodka, and our other products, help create a sense of urgency among consumers to be mindful of their carbon footprints while understanding we don’t have to compromise on quality. Instead, you can enjoy a high-quality beverage while mitigating your impact on the environment. That is what’s driving a lot of consumers today.
What sustainable practices would be the easiest for a beverage brand to begin adopting today?
The easiest way for a beverage brand to adopt sustainable practices is to be self-critical. Look at the supply chain and figure out where the company can do better in the short and the long term. Adjustments to packaging are a simple yet impactful fix. Another way is to offer product variations that provide lower carbon intensity options. Further, companies can create initiatives that give back to climate-centered organizations. The ultimate shift would be for a beverage company to transition the way their spirits are produced by adopting technologies like ours, but there are a number of steps they can take in the interim to curb their impact.
What are some sustainability misconceptions you’ve come across running your business?
Our technology and the ability to convert something like CO2 into products of value is so new that it’s naturally met with skepticism and general misconceptions. With Air Vodka specifically, we’ve also been met with questions regarding consumption and the safety pertaining to that. However, we’re in a critical phase of new development that requires learning overall, especially with consumers, and we recognize that. This is why education sits at the forefront of our company initiatives.
What do you think the industry at large can be doing better when it comes to sustainability efforts?
The alcohol industry is an oversaturated market, with products that do nothing more than increase carbon emissions. Throughout history, innovation has changed industries, and this is no different. This industry can be transformed through product innovation, increasing transparency about their supply chain, running their systems on renewable energy, and adopting new technologies that increase efficiency and decrease carbon intensity. This is across the board; all industries that use alcohol in their process can be innovated. We’re excited to show the world what’s actually possible.
What are your plans for 2022?
Scale is our priority this year, as is continuing to create awareness around the climate crisis and the carbon technology industry. We want to show the world that a decarbonized future is possible. This year, we will continue to grow our product output and enter new markets to keep up with demand while constantly educating our consumers on carbon technology while we scale our technology for global applications. Consistently delivering the absolute highest quality product for our consumers is the most important aspect of our consumer business, and we will make sure never to fall short of that. As a result, our ongoing R&D efforts for optimization will directly parallel and influence our scale trajectory.