Environmental Impacts of Packaging & Retail

In our latest MW Perspectives essay,  explains the process and findings of her Research Paper, which asked whether the environmental impact of wine packaging could influence the purchasing decisions of retail buyers in New York City. Read an excerpt below, and find the whole thing in our MW Perspectives section.

The challenges associated with the Research Paper, Stage Three of the Master of Wine Examination, are often underestimated. I have an undergraduate degree in English literature as well as a law degree. I thought my background would have better prepared me for the Research Paper! But instead, the learning curve for the final stage of the examination was steep and rigorous.

Arriving at an approved Research Paper Proposal was an iterative process that involved honing focus on my research questions and refining the methodology to be applied. This required three months and 11 versions. The research and writing that followed were also wrought with unexpected hurdles. I had immense passion for my topic and was committed to exploring this important subject but failed to appreciate the added complexity of research data that relied on survey participation, as well as in-depth knowledge of statistics. The exercise tested me academically and emotionally, but coming out on the other side, I could bask in a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction.


Climate change is arguably the biggest long-term concern for the wine industry given its reliance on agriculture. Though the industry focuses on the benefits of sustainable viticulture, the environmental impact of wine packaging—which accounts for the largest carbon footprint in the lifecycle of wine—had not been addressed to the same extent and warranted attention.

Carbon footprint is a worldwide standardized indicator of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions throughout the lifecycle of any good, service, or activity, according to the Kyoto Protocol and Life Cycle Thinking principles. Carbon footprint is quantified by an equivalent volume of carbon dioxide (CO2-E) and is the sum of GHG emissions associated with the production, distribution, consumption, and disposal of a product. This shared definition allows for easy comparison between different items while helping translate impacts into equivalent actions. For wine, the carbon footprint encompasses the sum of GHG emissions associated with each phase of production, including viticulture, winemaking, packaging, shipping, and disposal. Figure 1 attributes the greatest environmental impact to packaging, and Figure 2 illustrates that glass bottles have the highest carbon footprint of all packaging types in the study.