My name is Ash and I'm the founder and head distiller of Autonomy. For 15 years I worked as an Environmental Scientist in Australia and the USA. I always had an interest in the environment and in particular, sustainable development. So I studied, got my degree in environmental chemistry and set out to start helping save the world in a global environmental consultancy. While, I was (supposedly) doing something good for the environment, I was working at something which was incredibly damaging to my wellbeing. My work involved the investigation and cleanup of contaminated sites, but in doing that work, we’d clock up an huge number of miles in the car and in the air, consume a ridiculous amount of plastic in sampling equipment and relocate stupid volumes of mildly contaminated soil to landfill.
On top of all this was the demoralising enslavery of an office job. Revenue, targets, KPIs, utilisation, professional development plans, and then having the “this is the greatest company in the world” narrative shoved down your throat literally drove me to a 1/3 life crisis.
My day of reckoning came when working for one of the 'big, big' oil companies on an disused refinery in Jennings, Louisiana. We were demolishing and removing all of the above-ground infrastructure. The equipment was heavily contaminated with all the good stuff; asbestos, lead-based paint, petroleum hydrocarbons and radioactive materials. The contaminants where widespread and most certainly in the soil and groundwater. While on standing on the boundary of the site, chatting to the client about about why this oil giant intended not to address the subsurface contamination, a tractor drove by only metres away from me. The tractor creeped along slowly in low gear had a small platform on the back on which a farmer was standing, pulling in crawfish traps (the Louisianan equivalent of a yabby). I had not really noticed until then, but I then realised it was a rice field that alternated between rice and crawfish farming. Little did this farmer know that he was literally pulling in food from right next to a contaminated wasteland.
At this point I realised that the big money doesn't really give a shit about whats right, what's sustainable, or what's humane.
So I set off to find a job that might actually give me some self-satisfaction. Despite a fancy job description and impressive website, they were all the same. Mind numbing and depressing existences disguised as a launching platform to the next exciting stage of my rewarding and challenging career, all the while, selling myself out to the money.
So I threw in the towel as an Environmental Scientist. What good was I actually doing anyway?
As I started learning about the process of making spirits, we were astounded by the amount of resources required to produce a bottle of liquor. It's just another thing in one's life in which you never really think about what's involved to get it in front of you. There it is. A bottle of vodka. So many aspects of the process, we felt, were just not sustainable. From the massive quantities of grain and a huge volumes of water being used in the fermentation process, the energy required during the distillation process, to the importation of bottles for packaging and distribution the final product, we knew we had to fundamentally change the way our spirits were produced. And with the ever-increasing global population and problem of food waste and food security becoming such a concern, we set our mission to find more environmentally innovative ways of making booze.
So what is Autonomy? Autonomy stands for not doing it how others are doing it.
We may piss some people off along the way, but we're just challenging an old mindset.
What we hope to achieve and hope to inspire, is for others to go about their day-to-day activities, their jobs or their dreams in a way that challenges the norm.
We hope that consumers become more conscious of the environmental impact of what they’re drinking. By no means the solution to worlds problem.. We can do better and Autonomy wants to set a new approach.. While producing spirits like this won't change the world, we hope it will influence consumers on the environmental footprint of simple things - like alcohol.
It's not only imporatnt to know what you're eating, but what you're drinking. Have you ever asked yourself “how was this drink made?”
So how do we do this? For starters, we source locally. Australia has an abundance of foods and botanical, right on our doorstep. Over 1500 species have been discovered so far. So why the fuck do we import produce strawberries from Brazil?? Convenience.