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Beers You Should Drink If You Care About the Climate

With St. Patrick's Day coming up, it's good to know that conscientious breweries are taking action for the planet. Two dozen breweries announced yesterday that they've signed the Climate Declaration, "a business call to action that urges policymakers to seize the economic opportunity of tackling climate change." The 24 signatories come from all across the U.S. (plus Ireland) and range from microbreweries to major international brands.

This St. Patrick's Day, opt for a beer from one of the breweries participating in the Climate Declaration.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

The Climate Declaration, which was launched in 2013 by Ceres, a nonprofit sustainability advocacy organization, and its business network, Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP), has more than 1,300 signatories nationwide, including big names like General Motors, Disney, Levi Strauss, Mars Inc. and eBay.

In addition to the Ceres' Climate Declaration, the breweries have signed their own Brewery Climate Declaration to call attention to the specific problems of climate change that the $246 billion industry faces, according to Ceres.

“We believe that a strong economy and a stable climate go hand in hand,” said Jenn Vervier, director of strategy and sustainability at New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado. “We’ve committed to making our business sustainable, and it’s more important than ever that businesses engage with policymakers to support forward-thinking climate and energy policies.”

The beer industry, like any industry, faces many impacts from climate change. Warming temperatures and extreme weather events are damaging the production of hops, a key ingredient in beer. And it's a really bad time to have reduced hop yields because demand for hops keeps growing as the hop-obsessed, craft brewing industry explodes. Breweries are also working to conserve water, a major component of beer, which is becoming more and more scarce in the drought-ravaged West.

“These brewing companies see the financial upside of tackling climate change today, both for their own bottom lines and the overall economy," said Anne Kelly, director of policy and BICEP at Ceres, a nonprofit sustainability advocacy group. “Many are implementing creative solutions that lower their carbon footprints and cut costs, but they recognize that strong policies are essential for tackling climate change at the scale and pace that’s needed.”

These breweries aren't just talking the talk. They are walking the walk. Here's a list from Ceres showcasing just some of the ways that the breweries are taking steps to reduce their carbon footprints:

  • Measuring their greenhouse gas emissions. Deschutes Brewery was the first craft brewery to operate by the Global Reporting Initiative standards and make its carbon footprint publicly available. New Belgium Brewing has completed a full life-cycle analysis on its most popular Fat Tire beer. Brewery Vivant also measures greenhouse gas emissions and has completed a life-cycle analysis of its FarmHand beer.

  • Using renewable energy. Allagash Brewery, Brewery Vivant, Deschutes Brewery, Odell Brewing, Redhook and Widmer Brothers use 100 percent renewable energy to generate electricity. New Belgium Brewing, Ninkasi Brewing and Kona Brewing Company have installed on-site solar arrays. Kona Brewing sources 50 percent of its electricity needs with a 645 kWh roof-top solar array.

  • Cutting energy use by recycling steam. Fremont Brewing and Odell Brewing capture steam from the brewing process and use it for heat.

  • Capturing methane. New Belgium Brewery and Smuttynose Brewery capture methane—a byproduct of their wastewater treatment process and a potent greenhouse gas—and use it to generate electricity. The captured methane provides New Belgium with 15 percent of the brewery’s electricity needs.

  • Cutting transportation emissions. Many breweries are cutting their transportation footprints by reducing packaging and choosing cans to lighten their loads. Guinness has partnered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Smartways program that works with transportation carriers to reduce carbon emissions through better logistics.

  • Becoming LEED Certified Brewery Vivant became the first LEED-certified brewery in the United States in 2012, employing high-efficiency heating and cooling units. Smuttynose Brewing recently opened a LEED-gold certified pub in New Hampshire with LED on-demand lighting systems.

These are the participating breweries: Aeronaut (MA), The Alchemist (VT), Allagash (ME), Aspen (CO), Brewery Vivant (MI), Buoy Beer (OR), Chuckanut (WA), Deschutes (OR), Fort George (OR), Fremont (WA), Georgetown (WA), Hopworks (OR), Kona (HI), New Belgium (CO), Ninkasi (OR), Odell (CO), Redhook (WA, NH), Rockford (MI), Smuttynose (NH), Snake River (WY) and Standing Stone (OR).

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