It’s safe to say that a fine cocktail improves the environment of the person lucky enough to drink it. What’s less clear, however, is the impact on the planet’s environment as a whole, and what we can do to reduce that impact.
It may not be possible to save the world by drinking, but the effects on our natural resources and habitat might be minimized if consumers could find and choose environmentally friendly alternatives.
Some people may be lucky enough to already have a massive collection of fine spirits in the cellar, like the $100,000 collection that was recently polished off by a man in Pittsburgh. But for most liquor aficionados, the next bottle will come from the local store, and will have an environmental footprint behind it.
As with many consumer packaged goods, most of the impact on the environment happens well before the product reaches the shelf.
Production, packaging, and transportation all require energy in the form of electricity (often coal) and oil (for transport), as well as other energy usage by the suppliers of ingredients and packaging.
Spurred by a combination of regulatory requirements and consumer pressures, many production companies are implementing leaner, greener operations at an increasing rate. With trends in climate change drawing international concern, it appears the environmental concerns and greener incentives will be a permanent fixture in corporate operations, which may reduce the environmental impact of alcohol consumption over time.
However, the convenience of being able to buy your alcohol in a bottle, and the ability to find it at a large retailer near you, will likely always take some level of toll on the environment.
Environmentally Friendly Alternatives
Two possible alternatives that may prove to be more environmentally friendly: local sourcing or home production.
Due to rising costs at the grocery, environmental concerns, and health concerns surrounding our mass-produced foods, it’s becoming increasingly popular for consumers to shop at local farmers’ markets, or grow their own food when possible. This trend seems quite likely to continue into the world of spirits, and homebrewing and regional microbrews are certainly more popular than ever among consumers.
Regional and local distilleries are still in the beginning stages of legalization in many areas, but there is significant consumer pressure (and tax revenue for the government) that seem to indicate a strong future for local, small-scale distilleries.
When you see the local environmental impact of awhiskey aging building in Kentucky, it might inspire you to find a smaller-scale producer locally or regionally, or even try your hand at making your own whiskey at home. If a keg-based beer system saves time and money for the frequent beer drinker — as well as reduce the environmental impact of production and waste — it would follow that a home still would do the same for whiskey and other spirits. Be sure to check local laws, however, as home distilleries are not legal in all places.
Hope this article has provided food for thought on the topic of the environmental impact of cocktails. Now drink it up my eco friends.