Sustainable spirits and the Circular Economy

Chris Jaume, Co-Founder and Director of Cooper King Distillery near York describes the environmental and business benefits of distilling the first carbon-negative gin in England.

How do you produce carbon negative gin?

Every 700ml bottle of Cooper King Dry or Herb Gin removes 1kg more CO₂ from the atmosphere than it emits. This was the result of around 16 months of solid work, and was achieved by reducing the carbon footprint of our two core products as far as possible before offsetting the remainder with verified carbon credits.

We take several steps to reduce carbon emissions. For example, we power our distillery by 100% green energy and we use innovative rotary evaporators and cooling systems that use a fraction of the energy and water required to run a traditional gin still. We also reduce food miles by sourcing all our raw materials as locally as possible. For example, all the barley and wheat we use is grown in Yorkshire.

We chose to offset the remaining footprint 1kg beyond neutral with high-impact credits from Verra’s Verified Carbon Standard program, the world's leading carbon verification scheme. In addition to carbon offsetting, each bottle of gin plants one square metre of native broadleaf UK woodland thanks to our charity partnership with the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust. We’ve planted over 12,000m2 of woodland so far.

How do the circular economy and sustainability shape your business practice?

We strive to stop waste, improve efficiency, and look after people and planet. We offer a bottle refill scheme, avoid single-use plastic packaging and send zero waste to landfill. We are the first distillery in Europe to join 1% for the Planet.

How does your approach help consumers?

By choosing sustainable products you are reducing your own impact on the environment - by lowering carbon emissions, reducing waste and saving natural resources. If you can do that with gin, well, cheers to that.

What aspect of this sustainable approach has had most value for you?

Building a sustainable business from scratch with a Circular Economy approach has created a huge number of benefits in a very short space of time. Our ethos and strong vision has attracted superb talent to join our team as we grow; has ensured a steady flow of new customers; and secured national press coverage. It has also led to a number of high calibre and wholesome collaborations from which really innovative products and processes have been developed.

Ultimately taking a Circular Economy approach to all that we do has ensured we have a sustainable and resilient business.

Was your new business supported by grant funding?

Yes! PAPI, ReBiz, and SparkFund. We’ve found the process relatively straightforward, in large part down to the excellent teams behind the grants, as well as colleagues at Make it York and elsewhere.

For example, support from PAPI with buying the first rotary evaporator (or gin still) helped us gain a strong foothold in a competitive market early in our development and has really helped us achieve our short to medium-term growth plan much sooner.

A successful ReBiz grant application enabled us to explore ways to become more resource efficient and gave us access to super environmental consultants ESL. Their expertise has been incredibly beneficial to our understanding of our waste outputs and environmental footprint.

A special mention to Sparkfund here. We had some grant allowance remaining when they contacted us and asked if they could help in any way when Covid hit, as we were responding to the national emergency (producing and donating hand sanitiser), and there was extreme urgency needed in acquiring new kit to keep up with demand. We required new pumps, vessel and sundry items. We can’t thank them enough, and goes to show the superb dedicated support that the different grant teams offer.

What are your future plans?

There are so many! We’re currently developing the masterplan for our one acre rural site, which will see us become a destination distillery where eco-tourists come to see the operation, taste our spirits, share knowledge and meet the people behind the venture.

We’ve just planted our first juniper bushes on site, so we’re looking forward to seeing them mature over the coming years. Also, our first cask of whisky reaches its 3 year milestone August next year, which is when it can legally be called whisky.

Do you have a tip to share?

We’ve made our Carbon Report publicly available on our website, with the aim of sharing it far and wide, hopefully inspiring other businesses to follow suit.

Share knowledge, collaborate with and speak to as many sustainable businesses as possible. Get talking!