The Responsible Alcoholic

Once in a while I do enjoy a fun night out… especially a girls night out when you can really let loose.

I have been thinking for a while now about how I can be more sustainable in my habits, which include my regular social activities.  To be honest, drinking is definitely one of my most enjoyable “habits”. Conversations about alcohol almost always focuses on safe alcohol consumption, which is certainly important. What’s missing however is any mention about sustainable alcohol consumption.

As a strong believer of the “power of the dollar,” I thought about my consumption trends to see where opportunities may exist – and of course, alcohol is definitely an important aspect.  

Let’s be honest, the holiday season is here and yes, I am not going to lie: I do enjoy drinking (responsibly).  From attending wine tastings with my husband, to trying fun cocktail recipes with my friends, to have a refreshing beer while catching up on college football games, I enjoy all types of fun (and safe) drinking (and it’s such a great way to unwind after the kids go to bed 😉 !  The glass of wine I pour for myself after the kids goes to bed feels like a well deserved award that I have earned and sometimes I reward myself a few times (glasses) over.    

So I thought I’d start by sharing a bit about what I’ve been learning about “sustainable” drinking. I read through many articles and chatted with some of my friends who are more knowledgeable with the alcohol manufacturing process and found that some major focuses include:

  • Water management – the amount of water that’s used, as well as where the water is sourced (whether from water scarce locations or not); 
  • Energy management – the amount of energy consumed during the manufacturing process and the type of energy (renewable or traditional grid energy);
  • Packaging materials – the amount of packaging that’s used and whether these materials are recyclable or not.

Of course there are other considerations including employee health and safety, sourcing of other raw materials (i.e., grapes for wine, wheat/barley for beers and liquors, etc.); and there are certainly no ‘easy’ or simple choices as it depends on the company’s policies and practices and also what may be most/more important to you (i.e., water usage vs. packaging materials, etc.) and of course carbon foot print.  

From what I’ve gathered, drinking locally is best – it minimizes the transportation impact on the environment, it generally involves greater use of local materials, and of course, it supports your community! Everyone has their drink of choice and there is no easy, perfectly sustainable choice per se. But here are some considerations that I thought were interesting to share:

  • Wine uses less water than beer and liquor, but leaves a bigger environmental footprint through the transportation process;
  • Local breweries for beers are the best. For imported beers (requires far traveling), cans may be better than bottle (lighter) and typically easier to recycle;
  • Liquor’s distillation process is probably the most energy and water consuming of all, but depending on the company’s policies and practices, there can be room for improvement in terms of reducing its environmental impacts.

So next time when you are thinking about grabbing a drink, think about some of the considerations before making a selection. It would be ideal to drink responsibly in a personal and environmental way!