A conversation with Elias Campollo Orendain, the fourth-generation of the Orendain family to make tequila in Jalisco and the project lead for Tequila Komos and Orendain’s sustainability waste-repurposing project.
Drawing on insights from the brick project Tequila Komos founder Richard Betts started in Oaxaca, the sustainability partnership project at Orendain is an ambitious and exciting examination of what the community of Tequila can do to repurpose waste for the betterment of the community.
The project started with Richard Betts in Oaxaca repurposing agave fiber and water waste into adobe bricks that were given back to the people there to build housing and infrastructure. We wanted to do this project, but on a bigger and even more impactful scale in Tequila.
But before we got our hands dirty we had to get data on how much waste we were producing as a distillery. We didn’t measure waste before, so we when did it, looking at how much is being produced for one bottle of tequila we couldn’t believe it! For one 750ml bottle of tequila it equals around 15lbs of fiber, or bagazo waste and about 10 liters of water, or vinaza waste.
Thinking of how we can handle all this waste on a large-scale is an enormous project. Having this amount of waste showed us how many adobe bricks we can make, which was great, but we realized we have more agave fiber waste than water waste so our focus started shift. What’s better than bricks, more efficient? What will use more of the fiber waste? So we researched 12 different construction methods that are possible to employ with these waste materials.
The one we are most excited about at the moment are pre-formed 100 kilo (220lbs) brick panels so people can build their own pre-fab housing and projects. They fit together something like Legos, like enormous 3-D printing technology Legos, and this makes it easier for people to build their own projects without the use of sophisticated tools and materials. We’ve been training with architects to help design this project so we can send them panels for projects that they specify.
So now we have registered in Mexico as a not-for-profit for the project and the broken ground behind our La Mexicana distillery, the number one visited distillery in Mexico. The project will be executed on-site at this distillery. The visitors center will be hands-on, showcasing the different sorts of soil and building materials so people really get a feel for the project. Engaging with the visitors of the distillery helps grow awareness for the initiative and functions as a teaching center. In addition, some projects will be highlighted at any given time, allowing the guests to donate bricks, and to choose which project they donate to. A new house for a worker’s daughter? A medical center? A new school? Your donation goes exactly where you choose and helps fund necessary projects in the community. However, the workers at Orendain got so excited about what we are doing that the first projects are being donated back to the workers at the distillery for them to build additional housing.
Students at Iteso Universidad, a local University are helping with the project and receiving college credits for their time. These are young great minds just coming out of school, with ability and energy, that will help us continue to innovate. We’ve also put together a twelve-person board to help us with marketing and sustainability from other disciplines. Woodworkers, architects, social media experts, we even have one board member that uses avocado pits to make facial reconstructive bone grafts, are all part of the team to help make drive this agenda going forward. We are so excited about what this project will mean for Komos, Orendain, and the larger community of Tequila.