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Lance Hanson is trying to save the world, one vodka bottle at a time.
The owner of Hotchkiss-based biodynamic winery, cidery, and distillery Jack Rabbit Hill Farm was brainstorming ways to make his spirits more environmentally friendly when he had his “aha!” moment. Why not take the old-fashioned milk delivery service model—where bottles of milk are delivered and then the empties are picked up, cleaned, and re-filled—and apply it to vodka? So, he did.
“The beauty of it is that it’s simple,” Hanson says. “It doesn’t require any fancy technology or big investment, and it’s going to have an immediate impact.”
Before you set a cooler out on your front porch and wait for the vodka fairy to appear, the program, which Hanson says is the first commercial, no-cost, reuseable bottle service in the country, is only currently available to bars and restaurants (and one Denver liquor store, Baker Wine & Spirits).
Kimbal Musk’s the Kitchen Restaurant Group, based in Boulder, is one of Hanson’s early partners in the sustainable endeavor. “We continuously work hard to have a zero waste approach to the restaurants. When he came to us with this idea, we just jumped on it. Their products are amazing. To be able to do it in a zero waste manner, we just got so excited,” Musk says.
For now, Hanson is using the milk delivery-style service for his “workhorse, all-purpose” MEII Vodka. (Now called MEll Zero Waste Vodka.) It’s only been three weeks that the program has been in effect, but it’s been working so well that Lanson says he hopes to include his higher-end spirits, CapRock vodka, gin, and brandies, soon, and he’ll also roll out the program to more of his several hundred bar and restaurant customers along the Front Range.
“Some restaurants go through two, three, four cases [of MEII vodka] a week, so we’re shipping a lot of bottles,” Hanson says. “I, like most people, thought recycling was the way to go. But in the case of a glass bottle, there is no real energy savings. It doesn’t really do anything for climate change because we’re using the same amount of energy [to recycle the bottles].”
Hanson hopes to get at least 100 uses out of every bottle, which translates to a whole lot of all-you-can-drink Bloody Mary brunches and martini-fueled happy hours. If you want to feel better about your Moscow Mule’s environmental impact, here’s where you can currently find MEll Zero Waste Vodka: the Kitchen restaurants, Gaetano’s, the Plimoth, Brightmarten, Appaloosa Grill, Forest Room 5, Tangerine, Rioja, Bistro Vendôme, Stoic & Genuine, and Phat Thai in Carbondale.