Many entrepreneurs start companies with a larger social or environmental mission in mind. 

Like Air Co., the vodka startup co-founded by Gregory Constantine and Stafford Sheehan that instead of using yeast takes carbon dioxide produced by nearby factories, combines it with water, and uses solar-based renewable energy to create ethanol.

According to Sheehan, the process is "inspired by photosynthesis in nature, where plants breathe in CO2. 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."

If it sounds complicated, it is -- and is why Air. Co. has won awards from XPrize and NASA.

So when the startup wanted to help their New York City community deal with the coronavirus pandemic, the solution was obvious: Hand sanitizer is made up of alcohol, and ethanol is the primary ingredient in hand sanitizer. 

So Air Co. stopped producing vodka, and started producing hand sanitizer.

But not to sell.

Instead, Air Co. is donating every bottle of hand sanitizer it produces, choosing recipient orgaanizations based on advice from NYC government officials.

And, as Constantine says, "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." 

Other distilleries are doing similar things: Atlanta's Old Fourth Distillery started producing hand sanitizer when local stores ran out, giving away free bottles to the community. So is Portland's Shine Distillery and Grill.

Although health officials still recommend washing with soap and water as the best option, hand sanitizer plays an important role.

"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," Constantine says.

Small business organizations and community business groups often implore consumers to "buy local."

Businesses like Air Co. are flipping that premise around to not just provide local, but to do so for free.

Proving that many people not only say, but act as if we're all in this together.