The Carbon Footprint of Alcohol
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The Carbon Footprint of Alcohol

How Sustainable is Your Drink?

Have you ever given any thought to how your favorite beverage affects the environment? from energy utilization and packing to transportation and waste? The manufacture of alcohol leaves a carbon footprint at each stage that adds to global warming. Which sorts of alcohol, however, have the most of an effect? And what can we do to choose more sustainably? Let’s examine the carbon footprint of various alcoholic beverages and some suggestions for lowering your own influence.

What is a carbon footprint and why does it matter?

So what’s a carbon footprint? It’s the amount of carbon dioxide (AKA CO2) and other greenhouse gases that are released into the atmosphere due to human activities. When it comes to the production of alcohol, every step in the process contributes to this carbon footprint.

So, why would any of this matter? Greenhouse gases like CO2 are the main drivers of climate change. The more greenhouse gases we emit, the more we contribute to the warming of the planet. And ultimately leads to consequences for the environment and our human health.

Looking at a 2020 study by the University of Manchester, the global alcoholic beverage industry produces around 1.5 gigatons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, which is comparable to the emissions of around 276 million cars. While this might not sound like a lot, it’s important to remember that every little bit counts when it comes to reducing our environmental impact.

What influences your favorite beverages environmental impact?

Different aspects of beverage production, packaging, shipping, and fuel consumption can all have an impact on the carbon footprint of the product. Several instances include:

  • Hops and malted barley need to be grown and processed, which uses a lot of water and energy. During the fermentation process, it can also generate significant volumes of waste and greenhouse gas emissions. However, some brewers are working to lower their carbon footprint by using renewable energy, conserving water, and cutting back on trash. For instance, New Belgium Brewing employs renewable energy during manufacturing and is a recognized B Corporation.
  • Wine production requires a lot of water and energy for irrigation and processing. The use of fertilizers and pesticides can also have negative impacts on the environment. Some wineries are making efforts to reduce their environmental impact through sustainable agriculture practices and renewable energy. For example, Fetzer Vineyards is certified by the Carbon Trust and has a goal to be 100% renewable powered by 2030.
  • Spirits production, such as whiskey and vodka, typically involves distillation, which requires a lot of energy and produces high levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Brands like Hendrick’s uses a sustainable distillation process that minimizes their environmental impact, and they also partner with organizations like the Trash Tiki cocktail collective to promote sustainable bartending practices.
  • Alcoholic beverages’ carbon footprint may also be impacted by the packaging used to make them. For instance, it takes a lot of energy and resources to create and transport glass bottles, which can also be bulky and challenging to recycle. On the other hand, aluminum cans are more environmentally beneficial because they are lightweight and can be recycled more readily.

Tips for Reducing Your Carbon Footprint While Drinking

Here are some useful suggestions to help you consume less alcohol while lowering your carbon footprint:

  • Choose spirits and mixers that are made in your community: To cut down on emissions from transportation, choose locally produced spirits. Also look for locally produced mixers, such as fresh fruit and herbs at farmers’ markets.
  • Choose organic and sustainably-made spirits: Look for spirits that are made with organic and sustainably-sourced ingredients. Brands such as Prairie Organic Spirits, Square One Organic Spirits, and VEEV Spirits are great examples of companies that prioritize sustainability.
  • Reduce waste by selecting eco-friendly packaging. Some alcoholic beverages and wines come in cans or boxes made of recycled materials. Avaline and House Wine are two excellent examples of businesses that provide environmentally responsible solutions.
  • Do your research and support businesses that value sustainability and social responsibility.

By making informed choices about the types of alcoholic beverages we consume, we can reduce their carbon footprint. Next time you reach for a drink, consider a more sustainable option that helps protect our planet 🌎

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