When it comes to drinking, we’re constantly reminded to “enjoy responsibly.” But when it comes to drinking sustainably, enjoying “responsibly” means a lot more than just limiting intake; it also means making the best choices for the planet when shopping at the liquor store or ordering liquor delivery online, apart from making selections at bars & restaurants.
While there are a lot of ways to minimize your impact when it comes to drinking — such as recycling your bottles and cans when at home, or refusing to use single use items, like straws, with your drink — there’s also a lot that goes into how your favorite wine or beer is made which makes it sustainable, or not.
Check the guide below to see whether the wine or beer you’re shopping for is the most sustainable choice you are making.
Nearly all alcohol starts with the fermentation of a plant — whether it’s a fruit, grain, or something else, but the closest we associate with its original form is wine. Considering how many grapes need to be harvested when it comes to wine, it’s important to check vintning habits followed when growing the grapes that’ll eventually make its way into the wine.
While sustainable grape production isn’t regulated on a global scale, there are various regional wine groups that offer accreditation to different vineyards based on specific “sustainable” standards that give back to not only the earth, but also the people who help make it happen.
One of the top local groups that monitors sustainable wine production in the United States is the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance; the areas they address in order to qualify for their ‘certified sustainable’ status as a winemaker in California include water conservation, energy efficiency, healthy soils, responsible pest management, wildlife habitat protection, solid waste management, strong relationships with employees, neighbors, communities and more.
While those are specific to one group, all over the world, winemakers are adapting to introduce more sustainable habits. For example, in a province of France, they have introduced bats as a natural way to fight against grape tortix (a moth that promotes the development of rot in grape berries), rather than using pesticides. In Tuscany, Castello Banfi has also utilized practices in their vineyards to make sure they don’t interrupt the natural ecosystem; they’ve since made sure to lower their impact once their product is distributed by introducing a lightweight bottle. By their own estimations, the achieved environmental benefits can be summarized in savings of raw materials amounting to 6,340 tons (6,340,000 kilograms), with savings of energy equivalent to 6,340,000Kgx15MJ/kg = 95,100,000MJ (equal to 26,416,666 KWh). Consequently, the emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) decreased.”
Just last year, a study found that the “majority” of beer drinkers were willing to pay more money for sustainable beer — proving to beer manufacturers that even if eco-friendly beer is more expensive to produce, there is an available market for it. And it seems like breweries — both large and small — are taking notice.
While many of the larger companies are introducing efforts to be gentler on the planet much of the change in the beer industry is coming from small, local breweries.
The Brewers Association works with small, independent craft brewers to make sure they meet certain benchmarks when it comes to sustainability by measuring not only their consumption of resources, but also their impact when it comes to waste, emissions, and more.
One of the ways different beer producers has embraced sustainability is by highly reducing food waste; beer is made by extracting the sugars from grain so that yeast can turn it into alcohol and CO2. Many smaller companies have teamed up with local partners in order to turn food that would be wasted into refreshingly tasty beer.
Kelloggs began giving their rejected corn flakes to a local brewery in the United Kingdom so they can make beer, and Toast Ale makes their own beer from the rejected crusts and would-be thrown out bread from local bakeries. On the other hand Doggie Beer Bones takes the opposite approach: They use the excess grain being grown for their beer and create all-natural dog treats.
What you can do when buying
As with anything, it’s important to do your research before you buy something to make sure you’re buying from a sustainable, ethical brand – either in the store or liquor delivery online. A quick Google search can show you what your favorite brands are doing to minimize their impact — whether it means installing solar tech, or introducing water consumption reduction practices. It’s also important to look at the social impact that the companies have on their community — especially with larger companies, where their actions can have a real impact on the individuals who make their production possible.
While some of the labels and certifications make it easy to find out which brands are more sustainable than others, there are a few steps you can take to make sure that your alcohol purchases are generally better for the planet.
When possible, buy local; sure, your favorite beer may be produced states away, and you may have an affinity for speciality wine — however, transportation and distribution for these products creates significant emissions, which can be avoided if you shop locally for beer and wine. Plus, supporting local communities is always important!
Once you have your alcohol, make sure you recycle or reuse the packaging properly; aluminum beer cans are 100 percent recyclable, and there are tons of ideas on how you can reuse wine — or any other glass — bottles into interesting decor. If you’re the onehosting, you can also make sure you avoid single-use plastic straws and cups when serving.
And remember the motto: Enjoy responsibly — and sustainably!