Thursday, August 11, 2005

The Good Stuff, and Boats

There is an element of selfishness to any good work. Maybe there are some who rise above it, but for the ordinary citizen I think it can be useful.

I dearly love Maker's Mark Bourbon, and as a gluten intolerant person who can't drink beer, and tires of wine, I believe it's my good fortune that I've developed a taste for a specific liquor. So I have been quite a devoted customer, when I can afford it, but now that I'm giving serious thought to all my purchases I had to reconsider. I happened to receive an email from Maker's Mark referring to me as an "Ambassador" (I think my ex-boyfriend put my name on something), so I decided to ask them about the environmental impact of their product. I got an email back within 24 hours, and here it is:

"Hi, Maria!

Bill passed along your note to me for an answer. Thanks for
asking about our environmental performance ... we don't get many questions
about it, but we are pretty proud of our environmental operations. First
off, I would like to point out that we are ISO 14001 certified [link added by me, I found this info on a British site]. That's the international standard for environmental quality.

Maker's Mark owns more than 600 acres of land, and we manage most
of it similar to a nature preserve. We have an arboretum on the site that
focuses on Kentucky native species, and we support bio-diversity through
our grain purchases. We have our own waste water treatment plant that
allows us to treat our waste water to the point that the water we put back
into the stream is cleaner than the water in the stream.

We also strive to minimise the waste from the distillery. The
spent grain is picked up by local cattle and dairy farmers to feed to
their cattle. We have also developed a fairly aggressive recycling plan
that allows us to recycle cardboard, glass, plastic, aluminum cans, oil,
batteries, mercury and certain light bulbs. Even though it is generally
harder for a small company to develop large scale recycling efforts, we
are presently recycling well more than 95% of our waste as outlined above.

Finally, our boiler operations presently only burn natural gas ...
which is the cleanest burning fuel currently available to us. We have
even been dong pilot studies on the feasibility of biologically digesting
some of our spent grain to produce methane that we can burn in the boiler.

Hope all of this helps. If you have any other questions, just let
me know ... and thanks for caring about the environment!

Dave Pickerell
Master Distiller
Maker's Mark Distillery"

So. I can't make a definitive conclusion but that gives me a good place to start. I'd say my level of guilt if I bought this bourbon would be less now ... but I'm still not sure if I'm going to buy it. I'm aware of this phenomenon of "greenwash" ... here's a definition I found in an online dictionary:

"The dissemination of misleading information by an organization to conceal its abuse of the environment in order to present a positive public image."

So it could be trumped up for PR, I suppose. I'm also not sure whether the grains that go into the alcohol are organic, and whether they are or not I'm not sure I want to contribute to raising cattle who are consuming the grain waste.

This is when it's tough ... I crave the small pleasures in life to keep me going, and previously I considered bourbon one of those indispensable pleasures. Yet, earlier this evening I sat down in an easy chair with my bass and a blanket over me and the stereo on something funky ... and I certainly didn't feel like I was lacking anything. Quite the opposite. I felt fortunate.

Regarding boats. Every work day around 3:00 my friend and I take our mail down to the mailbox and then walk around the pier. Often we stop at the end and look out over Elliott Bay while we chat, especially if it's particularly warm and sunny. The mid-afternoon light is lovely. These days a lot of little tour boats go by, cruises that go around the the Sound and so forth. Yesterday a boat full of people went by, and some of them started waving right away when they noticed us watching from the dock, and of course we waved back, which prompted further waves. I flashed the peace sign but I don't know if I got one in return. Today, I happened to be alone on my walk, and standing in the same spot, and the same type of boat full of people went by, but no one waved. I stared and them and didn't move, and it was as if I and all the people on that boat were waiting for someone to break precedent and wave. I knew that all it would take was one person. It wasn't me, though, I just watched them go by.

You can see why this made me think. Change begins with one person doing something out of the ordinary. Raising your arm and waving at a person standing on the pier - it's not that great of a leap to make, but at some level it's still a leap. People are hesitant to be out of the ordinary until they have the safety of numbers, but once a change is made it becomes safer and safer to act. I realize this is all Psych 101 ... but there you have it. Seemingly innocuous moments reassure me.


At 6:48 AM, Anonymous PRASHANT LAL said...

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I am doing an extensive reaserch & project on Maker's Mark.


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