Green Heroes: Ivo Devereux, Co-Founder of Sapling Spirits

By Tessa Dunthorne

10 months ago

Meet Ivo, who wants to make your booze better for the planet

Fancy a planet-friendly tipple? How does a climate positive vodka sound? Sapling Spirits is the cool kid on the block when it comes to kinder drinks, and was founded by Edward Faulkner and Ivo Devereux in 2018. We sit down to talk to Ivo Devereux as a green hero.

Interview With Ivo Devereux, Co-Founder Of Sapling Spirits

Ivo Devereux and co-founder, sapling

Ivo (left) and Edward

When Was Your Green Lightbulb Moment?

We were running a tree planting project in Scotland and really struggled to get volunteers from the local area and beyond. We decided to start a small music festival with cocktail bars and realised you could get a much bigger and more diverse group of people involved in sustainability through offering them something fun to do alongside it. That is one of Sapling’s founding principles, to bring some fun to the eco movement.

What Green Business Practices Are You Most Proud Of?

I’m most proud of our five-litre refill eco-boxes and our mission to eliminate glass waste. Our work with ClimatePartner has shown that refilling bottles use 25% less CO2 than recycling them, which is a huge reduction for a simple packaging solution. We were the first spirit refill scheme (as far as I am aware!) in major UK wholesale which I am very proud of. Our refills now make up 85% of our on-trade volume and we have saved over 100k bottles from ever being produced.

What Makes You Feel Positive About A Sustainable Future?

I feel positive when I see all of the activism from the younger generation. From schools and universities to workplaces, young people are passionately demanding better from those in power. It won’t be long until they comprise enough of the voting population to mean that all political parties will have to be much stronger on their efforts to combat the climate crisis. Polluters will be taxed properly, and green business will be subsidised in similar ways that fossil fuels are currently.

And What Are The Facts That Make You Fearful?

We don’t have much time! If we are going to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels, there needs to be drastic action now. We saw what happened in covid when governments around the world intervened in a serious way to protect the public. Why isn’t it happening for the climate crisis when we are seeing more regular and extreme forest fires, droughts, and erratic weather systems? We need to act now!

Who Is Your Own Green Hero?

This is a really tricky one, but I’m going to have to go for Wendell Berry. He is an environmental activist who has dedicated his life to promoting regenerative and hyper local food systems, with a strong focus on encouraging people to get closer to the agricultural process – even if you just have a windowsill, grow your own herbs! The thing that tips it is his poetry which adds a unique emotionality to his activism. If you get a moment, read ‘What we need is here’.

What Is Your Favourite Product – And Tell Us Why We Can Feel Good About Buying It?

My favourite product changes all the time but at the moment I love my Earth and Wheat subscription. Every two weeks, I get a box of ‘wonky bread’ which includes anything from muffins to tortilla to pittas. Not only are they delicious, but you can feel good in the knowledge that if you weren’t eating them they would have gone to waste in a restaurant.

Can Producing Anything New Really Be Called Sustainable?

A very good question, and one I have often thought of. My short answer is, yes. First, a truly sustainable product has to be climate positive/carbon negative and have net positive effect on the planet. It has to start with avoiding emissions, then reducing, and then offsetting. Secondly, I would argue from a Sapling perspective that we are in a way not producing anything new (vodka and gin have been around for hundreds of years), we are simply replacing current market share with an ethical alternative.

What Are Three Other Brands Who Are Doing The Right Thing – Why Do You Like Them?

Human Forest – I like them because they offer a very easy, clean way to travel around London, and have pretty much stopped me from needed to use a car. They also have a great green market place which introduces and gives discounts to green products.

Wildfarmed – they are chaining perceptions towards farming and educating on how damaging monoculture farming can be. They also make amazing bread!

Patagonia – it may seem like an obvious one, but I love them as they continue to go above and beyond and engage in serious levels of activism. I really hope that Sapling gets to a point where we can dedicate time and resources to fighting the climate crisis on that many fronts.

Should We Be Green Shaming The Brands Or Companies Who Are Doing Nothing To Change Their Ways?

I don’t think shaming people will bring them into the fold. What we need to do is shame governments who don’t make it easy and cheap for companies to go green. There are so few polices and mechanisms that encourage green business. There will always be a need for cheap, accessible products. We need a change in policy that makes green stuff cheaper.

What Are The Biggest Challenges In Running A Sustainable Business?

I would stay staying ahead of the curve is both very tricky and very rewarding. There are constantly green innovations going on with packaging, raw materials, and clean energy, and its very easy to rest on your laurels. The challenge is to constantly ask yourself to be greener and develop with the movement.

What Advice Can You Give To Other Businesses Who Are Wanting To Do Better?

If you are selling a product, we live in a world where making green choices will attract more business and in the medium term get you more customers. Even if it’s a bit pricey, take the plunge! You will not regret it.

Three Things We Should All Do To Fight Climate Change?

Grow your own food wherever possible. Getting closer to food production helps you develop a better relationship with our planet and encourages ethical sourcing.

Vote for green agendas. Vote at local elections, for mayor, and of course in general elections. You’d be surprised and what difference a local councillor with a green agenda can do for you surrounding area in terms of urban greening, recycling, etc.

Drink Sapling! I had to slip that one in there at end, apologies. As a broader point, try and research products and buy ethical ones. It sounds cheesy, but every time you buy something you are making a decision about what you want the world to be.

Ivo Devereux is the co-founder of Sapling Spirits.