Thank you to @MariaRamos1889 for writing another excellent guest post. This time it concerns the environment and clean, green distilleries.
Mankind has partaken in the enjoyment of alcoholic beverages for thousands of years. In recent years, however, traditional distillation methods have come under scrutiny as a result of widespread pollution and other environmental concerns associated with climate change. Luckily, there are numerous forward-thinking firms in the business to promote and enable a cleaner alcoholic beverage production cycle.
Beer consumes quite a bit of water: up to 10 liters for each liter of finished product. Additionally, refrigeration contributes significantly to global greenhouse gas levels. The bottling process also requires a substantial amount of energy because glass must be heated to a high temperature before it can be properly molded. Brewers can partially reduce their environmental impact by using cans, which are often recycled, instead of glass bottles. While cans have traditionally been the preserve of cheap, mass-market beers, there are a few craft and specialty beers that are shipped in cans, such as Oskar Blues and New Belgium. Organic beers, like Wolaver’s and Samuel Smith, comply with guidelines limiting pesticide and chemical use. Even an organization as large as MillerCoors, a joint venture of SABMiller and Molson Coors, is trying to act in a more environmentally friendly manner by pledging to use only 3.5 liters of water per liter of beer produced.
Vodka and other spirits must go through a distillation process, which consumes a lot of energy and requires the input of green-unfriendly chemicals. Furthermore, some types of liquor, especially rum and gin, create waste products that must be disposed of. From the years 2002-2008, the Bacardi Corporation ran afoul of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for dumping thousands of gallons of waste into a river in Puerto Rico.
Mackmyra Swedish Whiskey has built a new production facility that aims to counter the energy waste typically encountered in distilling. The six-story building takes advantage of gravity to move ingredients, rather than relying on oil-guzzling machinery. Heat recovery mechanisms mean that waste heat can be recycled, reducing the consumption of energy. Similarly, DonQ is a rum producer that has been making a name for itself by using its waste for compost and irrigation purposes and by recycling energy from excess steam in distilling. Larger companies have gotten involved as well – for example, Diageo, the world’s biggest spirits producer, announced an ambitious plan this year to cut its global water usage in half. “As Diageo’s footprint has expanded, particularly in emerging markets, I firmly believe that managing water responsibly will be core to supporting the future growth of our business,” said Diageo CEO Ivan Menezes in a statement.
The egregious carbon usage associated with wine consumption is largely a consequence of shipping product all around the world, with problematic bottling and packaging as a secondary source of environmental harm. Here is makes sense to stay local – people on the eastern coast of the United States would do well to purchase European wines while those west of roughly Ohio or Louisiana could help reduce CO2 emissions by instead buying California vintages. In terms of eco-friendly packaging, French Rabbit Wines in Sausalito, Calif. is a winery that employs sustainable farming practices as well as a type of packaging from Tetra Pak that doesn’t require as many resources.
One aspect of alcohol production that’s largely outside the hands of producers is agriculture. Breweries and distilleries often use food products, like barley, oatmeal, sugarcane and potatoes, as inputs. The way that these crops are grown thus has a great impact on their environmental consequences. According to Alberta Energy Providers, poor agricultural practices alone account for between 10 and 12 percent of all human-created greenhouse gas emissions. Going even further, years of overgrowing and overwatering ultimately contribute to a destructive cycle of desertification and deforestation. It’s therefore important that transformations in energy use and sustainability shouldn’t be limited to the alcohol trade but should be spread to wherever food is grown.
Because the alcoholic beverage industry touches upon so many sectors of the economy – agriculture, packaging, transportation and refrigeration, to name just a few – changes in how drinks are made can have far-reaching repercussions. Customers can drive environmental sustainability by purchasing beer and liquor from those companies that have demonstrated their commitment to green technologies and procedures. While their initial impact will be limited, the advantages will start to accrue as alcohol suppliers start leapfrogging each other in the employment of green techniques and encourage their business partners to do the same.