Ti- no thanks I’ll have a beer
No, it’s not St. Patrick’s Day and I’m certainly not referring to the color of your beer. Drinking green means reaching for a beer that will have the smallest environmental footprint. Sure, giving it up altogether and sustaining purely on tap water is the most eco-savvy way to hydrate but then you have to live a life without beer. For some of us that simply is not an option. So, if you are among the stein cheersing, froth quaffing, sud sippers, you’ll be happy to know you too can minimize your impact.
Fa- a long long way to go
The first, and perhaps the most simple, way to reduce your impact is to source your beer from close to home. You’ve all heard the calls to “buy local”, and this is just one of the reasons why. The farther stuff has to move the more energy it takes to move it. The heavier it is, the worse. Water, which is most of what’s in your beer, is heavy stuff. These days it’s hard to find a town without a local brewery so your only real excuse not to by from them is if their beer stinks.
So- it comes in bottles and cans
Okay, so your local beer stinks or you simply must have that tasty import. Here it would be wise to consider the container your beverage arrives in. Have you noticed a trend in your local beer aisle? A lot more aluminum cans, am I right? It turns out the choice between the two isn’t as straight forward as you first might of thought.
Again, you have to consider the distance traveled. On average, an aluminum can weighs less than one-sixth of a glass bottle. Move your beer a long way and it takes far more energy to bring it to you in a bottle.
Next, let’s consider their manufacture. Aluminum cans are produced from a mined ore called bauxite. The environmental toll of bauxite mining is grave and well documented. On the other hand, glass is made from silica which is readily available and has a relatively small environmental footprint (as far as mining goes). Add to that the fact that it takes approximately twice the amount of energy to make an aluminum can compared to a glass bottle, and glass is the clear winner.
However, the scale tips back towards aluminum if you know about its recycling history (C’mon. You didn’t think you’d come to this blog and not hear about recycling). This information you can be tricky to come by but it never hurts to ask your favorite brewery. On the whole, far more aluminum is successfully recycled compared to glass- 54.9% versus 26.4%, respectively. Additionally, the process of recycling aluminum is far more efficient and probably the number reason why aluminum is included in nearly every municipal recycling program around the globe. Recycling aluminum is 96% efficient compared to measly 26.5% for glass.
Do- the stuff I buy beer with
Of course we all must factor cost into our decisions as well. If you are blessed with deep pockets, you can ignore this step and simply focus on the advice above. If reaching for that local 6 pack is just too expensive, find the next best thing using the criteria above. But remember that until the prices of the products on our shelves accurately reflect their cost, not only of producing and shipping the product, but for its negative impacts on our climate, the cheapest price tag may just create bigger problems down the line.
Me- the guy I buy beer for
For this guy, that’s a lot to think about when all I want is a cold beer. If you’re like me and sometimes don’t have the extra effort here’s the shortcut bottom line: buy as close to local as possible and, knowing nothing else, reach for the cans. Cans have a lot of other benefits too! So here’s to drinking green. Cheers!