Didn’t bother with dry January? Failed it? Need an excuse to have a drink a week early? Here’s your guide to employing some environmentally friendly drinking habits…
Being a “green” drinker doesn’t mean that you have to spend your weekends foraging for perfectly ripened berries to bottle up for months to create your own (probably deadly) concoctions. What it really means for most of us is a few more carefully thought out consumer choices.
Whatever your choice, by rule of thumb, distance is generally key. The further your alcohol has travelled, the greater its impact on the environment. The largest part of a beverage footprint is the distribution.
Another rule to consider is that “cider is super and spirits are shameful”. Cider is probably the most environmentally friendly alcoholic beverage; firstly the main ingredient in cider, whether it be apples or pears, requires trees to be planted and grown and doesn’t require them to be cut down after picking. Secondly, the process of making cider does not need additional heat which many other beverage processes do – particularly beer. There is also little waste from cider making as the fruit pulp that remains can be included in animal feed for pigs and cows.
However, as a gin lover, replacing every gin and tonic with a cider is not something I willingly consider. So what are the impacts and what are the options? Most gins are now made with a mixture of grains as well as potatoes and the gin distillation process requires more energy and water than most spirits (the same goes for vodka). This means agricultural and environmental intensity of creating these spirits is very high. If you’re looking to try out some eco-friendly gins I can highly recommend Dodd’s gin, which is a London gin made in Battersea with local honey and 100% organic botanicals that are approved by the Soil Association or Beckett’s gin which is made with juniper berries picked only in the UK meaning that the produce is fresh, local and doesn’t come with a big distribution footprint.
If rum or tequila happen to be your tipple, your impact is waste. Pulp and acidic wastewater result from the distillation of rum and tequila, and aside from some wastewater cleaning processes (which in themselves can be environmentally detrimental) there aren’t yet any wholesome solutions to this problem. However, some distilleries are more proactive than others, so if given the choice, you should be asking for DonQ Puerto-Rican rum, or Bacardi rums as the brand have ramped up their efforts with sustainable sugarcane, packaging and distillation processes. For tequila, try out 4 Copas or any Casa Herradura tequila.
But what about beer? The UK has been known to drink over 4 billion litres of beer in a single year (although this is only a third of the consumption of the world’s biggest beer drinkers, the Czech Republic), so the question is not only what does it do to our bodies, but what does it do to the environment? Making beer is a water and energy (in the form of heat) intensive process: mashing, lautering, boiling, fermenting, conditioning, filtering and packaging. It is the water cost and type of packaging that has the greatest impact on the environment. The beer-making process requires large amounts of clean water and depending on whether the product is in a can or a glass bottle, the packaging lifecycle has a high footprint. Beer packaged in cans is usually better and local craft beers have a lower water intensity than those that are industrially produced. In a totally different dimension, you could try bread beer, a new method of making beer from waste bread. If you didn’t see Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast on Friday (22nd Jan, Channel 4, 8pm) I’d recommend catching up to see how brewers are turning loaves into liquor.
So whether you’ve never even thought about the effects of your Friday (Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday?!) indulgences or you’re the kind of person who quizzes bartenders on the best beverages to go with your food/favourite mixer/outfit I urge you to try some of these more responsible options as they discount neither the environment or quality of product.
Don’t forget to drink sensibly though folks! 🍹