Anyone who sees people pouring tequila shots in bars and clubs probably doesn’t imagine the amount of waste that the production of the drink generates. Each liter produced results in almost five kilos of agave pulp (the plant that gives rise to the drink). Considering that in the United States alone, around 27 million boxes with 9 liters of tequila were sold in 2021, this means 1.2 million tons of waste.
The 818 Tequila brand, owned by model and businesswoman Kendall Jenner, has a plan to reduce the impact of producing the drink, which is made in Jalisco, Mexico – the residual agave is turning bricks that will sustain a school library in the country.
The idea began to be put into practice in October 2021, and is the result of a partnership between the brand and SACRED, a Mexican non-profit organization that helps rural communities that work with the production of agave spirits.
The action was named 818 Bricks Program (818 Bricks Program, in free translation) and had its first batch of bricks ready at the end of April. In addition to the library, they will be used to build a tasting room for a family distillery more than 200 kilometers from the brand’s factory.
“To me, it’s so beautiful that they’re thinking about how to lessen our footprint on the planet and, at the same time, how to improve the communities that are helping to build the business,” Lou Bank, founder of the organization SACRED, said in an interview with the website. American Fast Company.
Bank was introduced to 818 Tequila through “1% For The Planet”, an international organization of which the brand is a part, whose members are committed to donating at least 1% of their annual sales to environmental causes.
The buildings and bricks that will be built were designed by local architect Eric Gómez Ibarra, owner of Tierra Cruda, who specializes in bioclimatic architecture and uses raw materials from the region in his projects.
According to Ibarra, agave has been used to make adobe bricks (a technique used for making blocks that uses raw earth, straw and natural fibers) for thousands of years. The architect told the American website that the plan can be found in the composition of the pyramids in the Mexican region.
But the benefits go beyond the rescue of an ancient practice. While common bricks are produced in high-temperature ovens, which consequently consume energy to function, the blocks created by the program have 10% to 15% agave fiber in the composition and are laid and dried with sunlight, which reduces the carbon footprint generated in the process. In addition, they have the ability to absorb heat during the day and release it at night, helping to naturally cool the building.
In Mexico, agave bricks are slowly making their way back into construction. In the city of Oaxaca, where there is a large production of mezcal – a drink that is also based on the plant -, a local architectural firm has recently created bricks made with residues from the Sombra Mezcal brand.
For Ibarra, in addition to generating employment for the local community, this is a way of rescuing tradition. “We want them not only to have money, but to know that what their grandparents did in the past is also good now. They can relearn those skills, and if they want, repeat them,” she told Fast Company.
Construction of the library will begin in the coming weeks and is expected to be completed in January 2023, followed by the tasting room. The founder of the organization SACRED, which currently works only with 818 Tequila, hopes the initiative will inspire more companies to join the initiative. “If anyone else comes to us, we are more than open to continuing our mission,” said Lou Bank.