Posted on January 7th, 2010
It’s often the littlest steps that can have the biggest impacts. Today we’re going to take a few simple ways beer drinkers can make their beer habits more environmentally conscious.
The environmental impact is just one of the many reasons you should support your local brewery. By enjoying beer produced by local breweries, you help avoid the massive carbon footprint associated with shipping beer around the world. We all love a nice Trappist ale imported all the way from a Belgian monastery, but the cost, both to your pocketbook and the environment can be high. Beyond that, supporting local craft beer is a great way to ensure your area will develop a craft beer scene with better beer bars, stores and brewpubs.
Drink Canned Beer
Cans of beer have long been associated with the cheap, watery lager produced by major breweries like Molson, Coors and Anheuser-Busch. In recent years, however, a number of craft brewers have begun to challenge this notion that only bad beer comes in cans. This is great for consumers and the planet. Canning is one of biggest steps brewers can take towards helping the environment.
Cans weigh much less than glass bottles and stack more easily, meaning they can be shipped more efficiently and cheaply, greatly reducing the carbon foot print associated with distribution. Although it can’t be washed out and reused like some glass bottles, aluminum is much cheaper to produce and easier to recycle than glass.
Besides its higher initial costs, craft brewers have stayed away from cans because cans had a reputation for imparting a metallic taste to the beer. Thanks to new methods of coating and insulating cans, flavors are now perfectly preserved in them. Exposing the beer to sunlight and the possibility of a beer getting ‘skunked’ are also largely avoided.
Drink Draft and Growlers
Less packaging means less waste. This simple principle helps reduce the amount of garbage humans produce. By buying in bulk, you can greatly reduce the amount of bottles and cans you end up throwing away. To do your part, drink draft beer when you have the opportunity. If, like most of us, you don’t have a draft system in your house, buy growlers to bring home. These are large 64oz. glass bottles with re-sealable tops available from many craft brewers that use less glass and packaging than a six pack.
Beer made with organic ingredients has long been very difficult to produce as hops are a plant especially susceptible to insects and other pests. The insecticide and other industrial chemicals used to ward off bugs are strictly prohibited by organic farming guidelines. Despite these difficulties, there are some brewers who have produced organic beer for years. Wolaver’s, from Otter Creek brewery in Vermont, produces some fine organic brews. New Belgium also makes several organic brews. Across the pond in the UK, Samuel Smith makes several amazing organic brews.
We may see more organic brews in the future as the standards for what’s considered organic beer have recently changed. In 2007, Anheuser-Busch successfully lobbied the US department of Agriculture to make an exception for hops, meaning they can now use conventionally grown hops in their Stone Mill organic pale ale.
Above all else the easiest way to contribute to more eco-friendly drinking is to adopt a recycling routine. Some states with a return policy for can and bottles that you can later use for a future beer fund. How do you keep your beer drinking eco-friendly?