Just because you may not always drink responsibly doesn't mean you need to drink environmentally-irresponsibly. Whether your calling card is hard liquor, beer, or wine there are many options for imbibing booze in an eco-friendly manner. Here are the most sustainable ways to do it:
Pick you poison In the world of booze, there's a hierarchy of environmental degradation between liquor, wine, and beer. According to The Guardian's green blog, beer is the least eco-friendly of the three because making it requires a cocktail of heating, cooling water and agriculturally-intensive ingredients like hops. "A rule of thumb is that breweries use 5-10 times more water than actually leaves the premises as beer," according to The Guardian's Leo Hickman. Once you settle on beer, wine or liquor there are a number of things to boost your eco-cred.
Wine A rule of thumb for all eco-conscious booze binges: Location matters. The distance the alcohol has to travel hugely impacts its carbon footprint. So for wine, buying from a local vineyard is a great first step. From there you can choose from a variety of different eco-friendly wineries (The Huffington Post has a top ten list here). While different wineries commit to different levels of eco-consciousness, if they want to be organic, they all have to pass the same test. As Planet Green's Leslie Billera explains, "in order to be 'certified organic,' complete with the swirly green USDA organic seal, a wine has to be devoid of sulfur dioxide. These 'sulfites,' help ensure wine has a reasonable life span." Because it's tough to keep a business on wine with a low shelf-life, a lesser-level of green wine stipulates "made with organic grapes" which is still something but not everything. Update: A reader notes that boxed wine is also a good way to shed that carbon footprint—and The New York Times agrees.
Liquor If hard liquor or "eco-chic" cocktails is your game, you have options. Square One Organic Vodka, for instance, saves water by only going through a single distillation process. It also tries to save on packaging by not frosting its bottles, which uses chemicals, and prints its labels on sustainably-grown fiber sources.
But Square One is by no means the only game in town. There's also Juniper Green Organic Gin, which uses no artificial chemicals, organic grain, and avoids pesticides. But specifically advertised organic liquors aren't the only way to get blitzed without the guilt. Established brands like Maker's Mark have also gone sustainable with a "distillery situated on a state-certified nature preserve and with its state-of-the-art recycling and wastewater treatment," according to the Web Eco-ist. Additionally, "Maker’s Mark began using anaerobic digestion, a process that turns waste into bio-gas that is used for energy, offsetting up to 30 percent of the distillery’s natural gas use."
Beer One of the easiest ways to drink beer eco-responsibly is to choose cans over bottles. The reduced weight of cans increases shipping efficiency and is easier to recycle than glass. This used to be hassle because only crappy beers like Bud and Miller Light came in cans but the craft beer renaissance has brought about a number of choice canned beers from breweries like New Belgium, Oskar Blues Butternuts Beer and Ale and, sometime this year, Bell's. You can also skip the can altogether and order on draft or from a reusable growler.
Another tip, courtesy the Beeriety blog is organic beers. "The insecticide and other industrial chemicals used to ward off bugs are strictly prohibited by organic farming guidelines," writes one of the blog's contributors. "Despite these difficulties, there are some brewers who have produced organic beer for years. Wolaver’s, from Otter Creek brewery in Vermont, produces some fine organic brews. New Belgium also makes several organic brews. Across the pond in the UK, Samuel Smith makes several amazing organic brews."
So really, there's no excuse not to get drunk in a green way.
[Shutterstock Mehmet alci]