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Marble Distilling working in the spirit of sustainability

Carbondale distillery makes net-zero commitment, partners with Aspen’s Chris Davenport

Marble Distilling Co. has long committed to sustainability practices at their zero-waste production facility and attached hotel — their motto is “Drink Sustainably,” after all.

Now, the Carbondale-based business has a new goal: late last year, they committed to operating their production facilities entirely on a “net zero” electricity system by 2022.

“We are investing in our current situation and our collective future,” said Carey Shanks, co-founder and utility infielder for the distillery.



It’s a mission Chris Davenport can get behind. The Aspen-based, world-champion big mountain skier and environmental activist has partnered up with the distillery as an ambassador of sorts for Marble’s sustainability efforts.

“I was just blown away at how dedicated they are to their craft,” Davenport said last week. “There was just total alignment in what Marble Distillery was doing with their products and the way I like to think of myself as an athlete and a brand.”



Davenport also has long ties to Protect Our Winters, an environmental advocacy organization, and a number of other sustainably-minded groups.

“For most of my career, aside form being a professional skier, I’ve also tried to be an activist and an advocate for causes that relate to the outdoors and the ski industry and our community,” Davenport said. ”It’s been really important to me to use whatever notoriety I have through my skiing to do good with it.“

Davenport’s role extends beyond linking his face and name to the company; he was a key voice in encouraging Marble to look toward that net-zero goal, Shanks said.

“We like the word partnership because we are intertwined in our vision – our values and vision for a more sustainable future,” Shanks said.

That vision is one that Shanks and Baker take to heart — and one that they practice every day while running Marble Distillery.

“Every aspect of what we do is so carefully thought out that it’s making a better product,” said Connie Baker, head distiller and co-founder at Marble.

Grains ferment in a fermentation tank to make whiskey at Marble Distilling Co. in Carbondale. A 500-gallon batch yields roughly 350 gallons of a waste called stillage that the distillery recycles as animal feed at the ranch where the grains are grown.
Ian Roth Photo for Marble Distilling Co./Courtesy image

First, there’s the material waste from the distilling process itself. Every 500-gallon still of whiskey, for instance, produces 350 gallons of a waste called “mash” that would normally get thrown out, according to Baker; Marble recycles it as animal feed at local ranches.

Then, too, there’s the water and heat required to make a batch of liquor: Marble conserves more than 4 million gallons of water every year by using a closed-loop Water Energy Thermal System (WETS) to reuse water that would otherwise go down the drain in the distilling process.

The system also captures the energy from the hot water to heat the building, conserving nearly 2 billion British thermal units of energy every year. That’s enough to power 20 individual 2,000-square-foot houses, according to Shanks.

Even the transportation process keeps a low carbon footprint: the grains are sourced locally, so they don’t have to travel far for materials. And to ship orders from their recently-launched online store, Marble works with a company that uses “Less Than a Load” shipping, piggybacking on other not-quite-full shipments to distribute their product without adding more cars on the road, Baker said.

Shanks calls it a “systems approach” that allows Marble Distilling Co. to cover sustainability from all angles rather than tackle individual components of the distilling process one at a time.

The Water Energy Thermal System at Marble Distilling Co. in Carbondale captures hot water from the distilling process to reuse and provide heat to the building.
Ian Roth Photo for Marble Distilling Co./Courtesy image

All told, the company is about 65% of the way to their net-zero promise; adding more solar panels will bring them across the finish line. They’ve received funding from the Community Office for Resource Efficiency and the United States Department of Agriculture for the solar panel initiative but need to clear a few more hurdles on the financing and design fronts before installation, according to Baker.

It can have huge financial benefits as well as environmental ones — a message Shanks and Baker hope to convey to larger businesses, too.

“What we’re trying to prove up, quite candidly, to the big companies that aren’t doing it, is because of the unique attributes of our industry — a lot of water, a lot of energy, a lot of wasted heat — there are fundamental ways to design, remodel, capture those resources, as opposed to thinking of them as waste byproducts” Shanks said.

The value extends beyond the bottom line, too.

“We are very much community-minded, so that branches out into the social element of creating more jobs, so sustainability to me makes a better product,” Shanks said. “Why? Because, inherently, it makes for a better community.”

kwilliams@aspentimes.com


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