This startup is helping save the planet by turning carbon dioxide to vodka

Vodka isn't typically associated with much more than Frankenstein drink concoctions crafted in the heat of underage consumption and the taste of impending shame. Isn't it about time everyone's favorite flavorless spirit got some positive press? The folks at Air Co. would be inclined to agree. After all, they're on the cutting edge of both science and sustainability with their new distillery, which allows them to turn carbon dioxide emissions into beverage grade ethanol, according to Forbes. In other words, they're making vodka from air pollution.

Instead of the typical fermentation process, the team has a patented technology which allows them to remove a pound of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere per bottle, all from leftover CO2 emissions from local businesses. Better yet, it's supposedly some of the purest vodka you can buy — meaning your hangovers will be that much less painful.

The idea wasn't derived out of thin air. It took years of private research and development before the company was ready to announce its first product. Air Co. plans to utilize the same technology to expand into perfumes and other ethanol-based consumer products, which could have a far greater impact on global conservation. According to a report published in the journal Science, perfumes and similar products emit the same amount of chemical vapors as petroleum emissions from automobiles, despite the fact that 15 times more petroleum is burned as fuel.

Making vodka from thin air

Apparently, Air Co. started with vodka because it provided the most bang for their buck:

"Rather than going to the commodity market with the ethanol that we were creating, we looked at the value proposition from the price point of where high-purity ethanol is highest," explained CEO Gregory Constantine, who co-founded the company alongside CTO Stafford Sheehan. "And it just so happens that man-made vodka is where that premium is."

The pair boasts a strong wealth of knowledge, with Constantine coming from a marketing background at Smirnoff, while Sheehan holds a Ph.D in chemical physics from Yale.

One of the coolest parts of the whole process is that Air Co.'s distillery is solar-powered, and their model prioritizes sustainability over growth and profits. For now, they're staying local until they can scale the business in an eco-friendly manner. 

While it's still early days for Air Co., they have every reason to expect wind in their sails once people catch on. 

"When you have something that's so new, it's hard. It just takes time to educate people," says Constantine. "But what [Sheehan] has been able to do is truly, truly innovative: creating a liquid that is removing carbon from the atmosphere."