Isn’t there anything we grow in a sustainable manor? We being the collective human race, not just Americans or American companies hiding behind other names in developing countries. I really hate finding out that products I really love are terrible for the environment. TerraAmerica published a long article about the environmental impacts of tequila and they are extensive and there is very little good news in the article.
For those of you that don’t know, tequila is commonly made from the agave plant. There are 200 different varities of agave plants growing in Mexico. Blue agave is the best fro making tequila.
In addition to having 200 different varieties of agave plants in Mexico, they have 118 tequila factories and 715 brands of tequila. I feel very sheltered. Agave plants are grown in 180 municipalities in Jalisco, Nayarit, Michoacan, Guanajuato and Tamaulipas. In Jalisco alone the tequila industry employs 38,000 people. These people help produce 48 million liters of tequila.
- One liter of tequlia requires 10 liters of water. Most of this water will be discharged as industrial waste.
- The excess waste is dumped into the ground, streams and rivers.
- The excess water is called “vinaza” and is very acidic and has an oil that makes the soil impermeable.
- Vinaza are generally hot when dumped.
- The acid from the vinaza reduce agriculture production.
- One liter of tequila results in five kilograms of agave pulp.
In 1996 the Secretariat of Enviromental and Natural Resources introduced standards for degree of toxicity premitted in the waste and vinaza. These rules were adopted in 2000. No of the distillaries follow these rules. The standards state that one liter of vinaza can generate no more than 150 milligrams of “biochemical oxygen demand” (BOD) and each liter of vinaza emaits about 25,000 BOD. (BOD is a measurement of the quantity of the gas consumed in the biodegratdation of the organic material in the water.)
Only one fo the 67 tequila factories hjeeds the law on discharge of waste into rivers and lakes.
In 2007, inspectors conducted 197 inspections and found irregularities in 51 distilleries and only two of them were shut down.
In addition, people have started to grow agave plants in protected forests.
This problem looks bad from almost every angle and while an increase in the demand for tequlia may be great for Mexico and these companies it is likely going to make this problem worse.
The industry has taken a few steps to help fix the problems. Some distillies are neutralizing the acidity of teh wasterwater and cooling down the vinaza before discharging it. Also, in 2010, two vinaza treatment plants are slated to beggin operating.
I really enjoy nice tequlia. I am going to have to do some more research and find out which distilleries and factories are the best for the environment. Right now it doesn’t look like any are particularly good from the environment. My hope is that more awareness regarding the issue will lead to the Mexican government enforcing the rules and regulations that they have made.