Measuring the carbon footprint of your booze

Photo by Ryan Harvey, flickr

Tyler Chalfant | February 21st, 2020

While heavy drinking is known to harm human health, it’s also hurting the planet. Between farming, production, packaging, and distribution, there are a number of ways in which getting your favorite booze is consuming valuable resources and emitting carbon. A 2008 study conducted by New Belgium Brewing Company found that one six-pack of their beer emits about the same amount of carbon as driving a car eight miles.

According to Tom Cumberlege, Associate Director of corporate carbon measuring company Carbon Trust, a general rule of thumb is: the higher the alcoholic content of a drink, the higher the carbon footprint per liter. However, the larger serving sizes of beer and wine, for instance, can increase their overall footprint to make them less environmentally-friendly than liquor. Packaging alone amounts to 40% of beer’s total carbon footprint, while distribution amounts to 14% and refrigeration for 9%.

The New York Times recently explored ways to reduce the environmental footprint of alcohol consumption. Buying locally, or at least domestically, is one way to reduce transportation costs. Choice of container also matters, as the production of aluminum cans emits less than that of glass bottles, and aluminum is more frequently recycled. Manufacturing the bottle accounts for 33% of a bottle of wine’s emissions, and a 2011 study found that boxes reduce the overall carbon footprint from wine by 40%.

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