Cheers! A Guide to Sustainable Drinking
The paradox of learning that your favorite drink may be harming the environment is that it just makes you want to drink more. Unfortunately, the alcohol industry has an eco footprint, too. Beer and wine require an assload of water, alcohol manufacturing has an emissions problem, and booze cans and bottles are just another part of our waste. If all this makes you want to reach for a pint, fear not! I’m here to present you with solutions:
Problem: Water use
According to the Water Footprint Network, one glass of beer requires 74 litres of water, and one glass of wine requires 110 litres. And that’s not including water used for manufacturing! For beer, if taking into account the entire life cycle (from sourcing ingredients to flowing down a beer bong) this number could be as high as 180 litres You can thank SABMiller and the World Wildlife Federation for breaking that news.
Solution: Use Less Water (duh…)
Frog’s Leap Winery in California uses dry farming, or farming that doesn’t use water irrigation, to grow its grapes.
If beer is more your style, Full Sail Brewing uses less than half the water of your typical brewski.
Yards Brewing Co., New Belgium Brewery, and Stonestreet Estate Vineyards are other less water intensive beer and wine brands you can check out.
Problem: Energy Use
Thinking of switching to liquor now that I’ve outed the water footprint of the beer and wine industries? Not so fast! According to Mother Jones, liquor requires more energy to make. Sure, all booze requires energy (and lots of it) in order to be manufactured, refrigerated, and transported, but not all alcohol is equal on the sustainability scale. Vodka, for instance, requires more energy (and water for that matter) than its alternatives because it’s pretty close to just being pure ethanol (aka alcohol) after being distilled.
Solution: Renewable Energy (also kind of a duh…) and Local Ingredients
Diageo is the largest producer of spirits, and has quite a few beers under its belt too (like, ahem, Guinness). Thankfully, the company has set the goal of using 100% renewable energy by 2030, and has already started working on energy efficiency, using renewable energy at various sites, and using by-products from its alcohol production as bio-energy.
Maker’s Mark also uses the waste it creates and turns it into energy to power its operations. As a bonus, it also sources its grains locally so energy used during transport is lower.
In case you thought you could get through this post without seeing the words “climate change”, unfortunately you were wrong. Ethanol is in fact an air pollutant. As if that wasn’t depressing enough, alcohol also contributes to water and soil pollution. If, like me, you’re a fan of the pirate’s drink, it’s particularly heartbreaking to learn that sugar cane (what rum is made from) has an exceptionally bad track record when it comes to water pollution and soil erosion.
Solution: I know you’re tired of hearing it but...Buy Organic
Many synthetic ingredients and pesticides are toxic but you can find an organic alternative no matter what your jam is.
Tequila fan? Try Copas Tequila.
More of a gin person? CapRock Colorado makes organic gin.
Vodka drinker? There’s Prairie Organic Vodka.
There’s also Koval Bourbon Whiskey, Papagayo Organic Rum, Loft Organic Liquors...you get the point.
About ¼ to ⅓ of America’s waste footprint is due to packaging. For distilleries specifically, waste accounts for about 20% of their carbon footprint according to a 2013 study by the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER...yes, we caught the pun.) That’s not accounting for little things that can add up when drinking, like plastic straws and the beloved red solo cup.
Solution: Recycled, Recyclable, and Reused Materials
If you’re a wine fan you’ll be happy to hear that French Rabbit wines comes in recyclable Tetra Paks.
Greenbar Distillery checks off a lot of sustainability boxes by using glass that’s 25% lighter than the typical glass bottle, using cardboard that is 35% post-consumer waste, and paper labels made from 100% post-consumer waste materials.
If you want to pick up something from a gold star booze company in terms of waste management go for New Belgium Brewery. It diverts 99.9% of its waste from landfills and is a Platinum certified Zero Waste Company!
Although everything has an eco footprint - including all of our favorite nightcaps - just remember that not all brands are created equal. Next time you hit up a liquor store try to keep in mind some of the sustainable brands above, and don't forget to check out your own locally crafted options. After all, getting wrecked doesn't mean we have to wreck the planet in the process.
Next time you're drinking remember to #ProtectYourWild
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By Darian Williams, ALDA's Blog and Digital Marketing Specialist Intern
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