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Bottom's up: now you can drink while saving the world

Eating & Drinking
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Georgina Wilson-Powell

4 November 2016

An award-winning wine that also saves the environment? It’s the ultimate in multi-tasking. Proud Pour uses the profits from each bottle of Californian Sauvignon Blanc it sells to restore wild oysters in bays on the American coast. One bottle, 100 oysters.

Let’s face it, doing good can be hard work. There’s the good intention, finding the right cause, finding the time, turning up, turning down other stuff. Hard right? So why not piggyback philanthropy onto things we’re already doing, like drinking.

‘Great’, you might say. Or, ‘oysters?’ you might ask. Big deal.

So why has Proud Pour chosen oysters? They're not the most exciting thing on the planet. Whether or not they taste good is another discussion, but they’re pretty sedentary, little more than shells with snot in, right? 

Wrong. Oysters are a fundamental building block of our ocean’s ecosystem.

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“Oyster reefs build up, providing homes for young fish and crabs and those reefs can help baulk against flood damage”

Oysters (bivalves if you want to get fancy) work as filters in the ocean, cleaning the water in coastal bays. Oyster reefs build up, providing homes for young fish and crabs and those reefs can help baulk against flood damage. Not bad for something that looks like a piece of flint, huh?

This is the same realisation that Berlin Kelly had while working a corporate job in New York and indulging in her passion of home brewing at the weekend. Saving the oysters became a personal mission - worldwide oyster populations have plummeted by 85% thanks to overfishing and pollution. On the eastern seaboard of America that figure goes up another 10%. New York was once home to half the world’s oyster beds but these have been almost wiped out in the last couple of centuries.

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Proud Pour's co-founders Brian Thurber and Berlin Kelly don't just want to save oysters. Other species will get their own drinks...

Her answer? Proud Pour. A vegan friendly, sustainably grown, carbon offset (and very drinkable) white wine, that allows each shop selling it and every customer drinking it to feel like they’ve done something good with their Saturday night. And they have. In just over a year, 3.4 million oysters in eight conservation sites across five states in America have been replaced by Proud Pour’s vino lovers (around 400,000 of those in New York).

“Our oysters clean over 100 million gallons of water a day,” says Kelly. “When you go to the conservation projects we work with you can see how much the diversity has picked up. Seahorses, clams, crabs are all there because they now have a clean water habitat thanks to the oysters."

Roll onto next year and Kelly and her co-founder Brian Thurber will introduce a Pinot Noir (likely to be from Oregon) to Proud Pour and this time it’s the bees that drinkers can raise a glass to. Each bottle will plant 3,500 wildflowers in local programmes in each state that the wines are sold.

“We had a lot of different ideas for helping wolves, bats or mushrooms but people have this awareness about bees, they know they’re important and they find the concept of them at least cute,” says Kelly. “We plan to have a whiskey for wolves and a beer for the beavers and add a tequila as well. There are so many issues but we try to find a fixable problem where we can make a tangible difference."

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