If you love drinking beer, and have been known to tip a few back while in the great outdoors, then you may have also wondered whether doing so is environmentally sustainable. After all, what good is beer going to be if you can’t enjoy one at a pristine lake, rolling meadow, or unpolluted beach? Sure, there will still be bars and coaches in front of televisions, but will anyone be playing sports if the air’s toxic or it’s a bazillion degrees outside? Not likely
If the environment’s a mess, you also have to ask yourself if there will be any beer to begin with. In case you didn’t know, ale and lager don’t just magically appear in a keg at your favorite pub or in a cooler at the local store. Making beer, in fact, requires lots of clean water and natural ingredients like wheat and barley. So, it stands to reason, the more polluted the environment gets, the less beer there will be. Now that’s not the kind of world anyone wants to live in.
But, is it possible to make and drink lots of beer and still preserve the environment? Can a beer be eco-friendly? Thankfully, beer lovers and tree huggers, the answer is “yes.”
How is Beer Packaged?
If you’re not an expert in environmental sustainability, or all you know is that throwing your empty beer bottle into the lake is bad, then you might not have realized packaging even mattered. What you should understand, however, is that the more recycled materials a manufacturer uses to make and sell you delicious beer, the better.
Making new bottles and cans for every single beer that’s produced requires not only a ton of materials, but also a mind-boggling amount of energy. Beer manufacturers that use recycled materials to bottle and package their beer, therefore, produce less waste and fossil fuel emissions that pollute the air.
No, you don’t get money for each bottle or can you return just because someone out there is feeling generous. It’s because it saves brewers cash and is the environmentally smart thing to do. If you don’t recycle your bottles and cans, then just know that you’re part of the problem, not the solution.
Due to growing concern amongst consumers regarding sustainability, and the fact it can save companies money, many of the world’s biggest brewers are trying to be eco-friendly. For example, by 2009, brewing giant Anheuser Busch was recycling 98% of the waste it produced during the manufacturing process.
Competitor Miller Coors has taken steps to reduce the amount of cardboard it uses to package beer by 11%, which will save over 20,000 trees annually. The company also cut back the amount of aluminum it uses by a staggering 10 million pounds, just by redesigning the can in which it sells its beer. Now that’s cutting back in a good way.
What about the beer-making process?
While buying beer from companies that use recycled or less materials is a good way to be eco-friendly, considering how it’s made is also important. Making beer requires a lot of water and, since people also need clean H20 to live, the less that’s used to make beer the better. It’s also important to remember that, the more beer you drink, the more clean drinking water you’ll need to battle your hangover tomorrow. Ironic, no?
If you want to be eco-friendly, try to support breweries that have taken steps to reduce the amount of water they use during their production process. For example, Anheuser-Busch says the company has reduced its water-to-beer ratio by nearly 15% in recent years.
Breweries that use renewable energy during the manufacturing process will also have a smaller environmental footprint. For example, Sierra Nevada uses solar power to help make delicious beer, and hopes to be completely off fossil fuels in the long term. Smog and beer don’t go together well anyway.
What’s in your beer?
If a ton of pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and other chemicals are used to make your favorite beer, then chances are Mother Nature isn’t a big fan. While some chemicals are used to make sure the beer’s ingredients are produced or stay fresh, that doesn’t mean they’re good for the environment over time. There’s a reason people are supposed to wear masks while they’re spraying pesticides.
If you’re not a fan of organic products or beer, then try to find a brewery that’s at least committed to using fewer chemicals during production. Both the environment and your health will thank you for it.
Where does your beer come from?
Buying local is not only a good idea because you’re helping your community’s economy, but because products that are made near you don’t have to be shipped as far. Unless a company can transport you beer Star Trek style, it needs to be shipped via trucks that produce fossil fuel emissions. The shorter the trip to your fridge, the more eco-friendly the beer. If there are no decent microbreweries in your neck of the woods, then try to buy beer from breweries that are at least geographically closer, rather than nine states away.