Love your planet. Drink beer.

In honor of Earth Day, the following is a sort of condensed version of the various topics I’ve been fleshing out recently in different articles. Cheers!

It’s that time of year again, when the impending arrival of Earth Day focuses media attention on the environment and how to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. Thankfully, in recent years, social consciousness of environmental issues and living “green” has grown tremendously, and as our impact on this fragile planet becomes more apparent each day, people are regularly making choices that support a healthy planet.

These choices are closely tied not only to what we eat, but also to what we drink. And with all the options available today, it’s easier than ever to honor the Earth while enjoying a delicious beer.

From the boiling of the wort to the disposal of wastewater, the brewing process itself requires a lot of energy. Many responsible breweries have taken bold steps toward reducing their impact on the environment; the wind-powered New Belgium Brewing Company in Colorado is a great example. Also running on wind-generated electricity, New York’s Brooklyn Brewery prevents hundreds of thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide from entering earth’s atmosphere each year. Great Lakes Brewing Company in Ohio incorporates “zero waste initiatives” into their daily operations, striving to make full use of the by-products of the brewing process. Right here in Michigan, the Michigan Brewing Company powers their steam generator with biodiesel fuel created from used vegetable oil. They brewed their first batch of “bio-beer” late in 2007, and plan to install electrical generators that run on biodiesel to gain even greater self-sufficiency

These are only a few examples of breweries that make environmentalism part of their business plan. A little research into a brewery’s philosophies and practices can help you select beer produced in a manner that respects that earth. In addition to the breweries themselves, there’s also the issue of the ingredients. Today, beer brewed with organic ingredients is quite easy to find. From craft brewers to giants like Anheuser-Busch, organic beers offer eco-conscious drinkers a chance to feel good in more ways than one.

Yet the question of the container that so loving holds your bubbly beverage must also be addressed. Silica, the substance used to create glass, requires less environmental upheaval to produce than bauxite, the raw material needed to create aluminum. So drinking beer from glass bottles is a great choice if the beer is produced locally. However, if that beer was shipped over vast distances, lightweight aluminum is probably a better choice than glass, which requires more fuel for transportation. To end this headache, bike, walk or take the bus to your favorite bar and enjoy a draught beer! They’re held in kegs that may last up to two decades. When you’ve finished your last pint, fill up a growler, then go home and bask in your virtuous drinking habits.

Perhaps the most important eco-friendly beer-related choice you can make may surprise you: drink local. Since many food items travel up to 1,500 miles before reaching our fridges or pantries, choosing locally produced food and beverages saves massive amounts of fuel. The concept of food miles refers to the distance any given food item travels via truck, ship, train or plane from the field to your plate. In general, the greater the distance traveled, the more severe the toll on the environment. In addition to promoting better air quality and reducing pollution, drinking local beer has the added benefits of supporting our local economy and guaranteeing freshness.

With all the options there are to weigh, just remember that making a positive step in any direction is better than none at all. And once you’re happily enjoying the fruits of your informed decision, perhaps you’d like to toy with the notion of making your own brew. Homebrewed beer may just be the “greenest” beer you can drink, especially if you incorporate locally purchased, perhaps locally grown, organic ingredients.

Every lifestyle choice you make has the potential to either harm or benefit the environment, especially choices that you make repeatedly — week in and week out, or day in and day out, as the case may be. You can make a difference while you enjoy a delicious brew. Doesn’t sound like such a bad combination, does it?

This article originally appeared in the April 2008 issue of Revue magazine in honor of Earth Day, written by me, Brenda Cooke.


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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. We are huge supporters of Michigan beer here @ Joe’s. We have 30+ Michigan bottled beers! We offer a bucket in which u choose 6…(Michigan pick 6 we call it) encouraging people to support Michigan and drink locally. Came across your website and love it. We will keep doing are part and stay local.
    Cheers, Joe

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