Welcome to the Sustainability issue of Spirited magazine.

In recent years, “sustainability” has become an international watchword, with countless citizens and companies seeking ways to lighten their impact on this planet we call home. For agriculturally dependent enterprises like vineyards, orchards, hops farms, and fields of grain, these efforts go beyond mere gesture—they’re about survival. This issue explores ways the alcohol beverage industry is embracing practices that steward the land, tread lightly on natural resources, and lead us all to make smarter choices.

We start our stories in Mexico, where industry leader Patrón has partnered with its government to encourage all tequila producers to operate with more efficiency. Elsewhere, we address alternative energy sources, wastewater treatment, and even propagating new species of fruit in direct response to the effects of climate change. And speaking of change, check out our overview of the impact that legalized cannabis could have on the beverage industry.

Sonoma County Barrel Auction

Auctioneer John Curley works the crowd at the Sonoma County Barrel Auction [Photo by Will Bucquoy]

But sustainability is about more than just carbon footprints and resource conservation. It’s also about people. Here in Sonoma County, Calif., the “Go Local” movement has become a call to action, encouraging residents to support their neighboring farmers, artisans, and family businesses—a perfect setup for craft beverage producers in the area. What makes it even more special is that so many of these winemakers, cidermakers, distillers, and brewers choose to return the favor, supporting local causes and organizations that give back to the community while at the same time showcasing the products and practices that make each beverage special.

The feeling of community that can be found among producers who share a home region is one of the things I love most about the beverage industry. I recently had the privilege of attending two superlative annual events. The first, Sonoma County Barrel Auction, brought together more than 250 members of the international wine trade to taste one-of-a-kind wines, straight from the barrel, and secure future rights for when the wine is ultimately bottled and ready for consumption. This year’s 90 lots raised a record-setting $794,500, with proceeds to support the marketing initiatives of Sonoma County Vintners and its AVA partners. In September, a consumer-facing version will fundraise for nonprofits in the area.

2017 Auction Napa Valley

The Coppola Family welcomes guest to Inglenook Winery for the barrel action portion of 2017 Auction Napa Valley [Photo by Julie Fadda Powers]

Proceeds from these community fundraisers can reach into the millions of dollars. Case in point: The first weekend of June welcomed Auction Napa Valley’s full-blown annual extravaganza of winemaker dinners, intimate tastings, and fabulous parties and entertainment. This year’s auction topped $15.7 million, with proceeds, as always, earmarked for nonprofit groups focused primarily on community health and children’s education.

It’s a strategy being used by industry organizations nationwide. May was Oregon Wine Month, welcoming visitors with unique events and opportunities promoting the state’s more than 700 wineries and 1,000 vineyards. In tandem with the month-long promotion, Chehalem Winery in the Willamette Valley AVA launched Make a Case for Giving, a giveaway of 100 cases of wine (worth up to $40,000) to qualified charities for use in fundraising efforts.

Bottom line: there’s always another reason to join forces. As the summer months stretch out before us, advocacy and trade groups nationwide are preparing similar festivities. I’ve focused on wine here, but producers in all beverage categories could readily collaborate on similar events. By coming together to support each other, likeminded businesses (in any industry) can create a powerful promotional message: We’re here and you should be, too.

I encourage you all to seek out these types of opportunities and support them—or create them. Your community will thank you. Cheers!