Today, we need a lot of hand sanitizers, hand rubs, you name it, in order to keep ourselves clean of the new coronavirus. We know that alcohol is needed for this, and for that we have a rather unexpected (yet somehow pleasant) ally—a vodka brand.
New York City-based Air Co. became well known because they made the world’s first carbon-negative vodka. Carbon negative? Yes, you read that right. They use captured CO2 instead of yeast to make alcohol. Now, in response to the coronavirus crisis, the company is using that same captured CO2 to make hand sanitizer instead.
Gregory Constantine, the CEO, said that because the company was founded on the basis of fulfilling a mission of social good, Air Co. wanted to find some way to help with community efforts to counter the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“As of last week, we temporarily shifted our entire vodka production efforts to make a carbon-negative hand sanitizer. Sanitizer is 70% ethanol, our technology’s main output, and we will produce as many bottles as we can during this crisis,” wrote the company in a statement.
Giving alcohol to the ones needing it
This sounds rather ambiguous. But since alcohol is much needed to make hand sanitizers, a lot more people need it now. Topically, of course. A lot of people have bought and stocked hand sanitizers. Or worse, there are people who bought them, then proceeded to resell them at a much higher price. Some people in my city definitely have done this.
With that said, Air Co. is now directing 100% of its production capacity to making hand sanitizer. Now, Constantine said that even though they had been producing the sanitizers in smaller volumes, they had managed to produce more than a thousand of 50ml bottles. They’re not planning to stop there, though. The CEO said that they won’t stop making a thousand bottles per week and “push supply as much as our technology allows us to.”
The company, teaming up with NYC officials, will donate their hand sanitizers to institutions which need this product the most. When TechCrunch asked Constantine about how he and his team were going to decide who gets them (because a lot of people need it).
Constantine said, “We’re going to be directly supplying all donations at the advice of the city. We are also looking to work with local restaurants to have them provide food delivery drivers with our sanitizer given that bars and restaurants have had to shut their doors to patrons, leaving delivery services at the forefront of food services here in New York City.”
Since the company wants to keep supplying sanitizers as much as they can, one must ask if they want to keep donating as opposed to gaining profit. However, Constantine stated that Air Co. is trying to keep providing this product although it’s still unsure about how long this pandemic is going to last.
He said, “We have shifted our production and are running on a very limited team to ensure that we are not furthering the spread of the virus in our efforts. Every small piece of help from any person or business goes a long way in a time of need like this, and we plan to help however we can,”
“Everything we do is centered around making goods that do good. Our core business is vodka, but we’re trying to make things that help, not harm, the planet, so making hand sanitizer now is part of our ethos,”
“When it came to the question of should we do it, the answer was the world just needs it and we have the ability to help.”
After the outbreak became widely known, Constantine had foreseen the surge of need for hand sanitizer. Which is why he quickly changed the outcome product of his company. “We’re trying to make as much as possible with a lean team. Because of social distancing restrictions, we can’t have multiple people on site in our production facility,” he added.
Actually, this vodka brand isn’t the only distillery that starts producing hand sanitizer. During the pandemic, priorities change and I’m glad they understand this. Some other distilleries offered free bottles as well, which is nice.
However, hand sanitizer made from captured CO2 is definitely unique. I mean, I want to have one and I’d definitely buy it if I lived around NYC! So basically the carbon-negative brand uses CO2 captured from nearby factories and then runs it through a process that combines it with water to make alcohol.
And not just that, they distill the final product in equipment that runs on solar power. Stafford Sheehan, one of the cofounders, said that they drew inspiration from plants’ photosynthesis, “They take up water, and they use energy in the form of sunlight to make things like sugars and to make other higher-value hydrocarbons, with oxygen as the sole by-product. Same thing with our process: The only by-product is oxygen.”
Hand sanitizers from other brands
(note: the photo above is not a picture of the hand sanitizer, but a product by the same company)
Social distancing and hand cleansing (with soap or sanitizer) are still important to help protect yourself and others from this new coronavirus. Other than distilleries, skin care or personal care products have also switched their type of production to hand sanitizers (which makes sense because usually those products need some alcohol as well).
Skincare brand By Humankind have added hand sanitizers to their collection. Although it doesn’t use alcohol made from captured carbon, By Humankind is still trying to be sustainable during these trying times.
To reduce single-use plastics, By Humankind produces their hand sanitizers in large aluminium bottles which can refill about four pocket-size hand sanitizers. This way, you simply need to refill your small bottles and reuse them instead of buying new ones.
Also, hand sanitizers from By Humankind is good for your skin, especially if you have extra dry skin. This product contains hyaluronic acid to help prevent cracking and 65% ethyl alcohol. Yes, it’s not 70%, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 60% alcohol for sanitizers, so this is okay.
By Humankind has two options of hand sanitizers: grapefruit and unscented. You can choose to select a one-time purchase, or you can subscribe, which means you’ll receive two bottles every 12 weeks, saving you 15 percent. Or if you plan to buy a three or four pack now, you can receive a 15 percent or 20 percent discount. The choice is yours.