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Green challenges

Thinking global and acting local, Julie Grundy takes on any challenge we throw at her.

How I chose to drink greener beer

Tap beer in glasses

Credit: Julie G

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Did you know that beer is the world’s most widely consumed and oldest alcoholic beverage? Ancient Egyptian writings have recipes for it and many cultures around the world today have their own variations. I guess I’m not alone in enjoying a frosty cold beer after a long day! But I was concerned about the environmental impact of it, so a while ago I decided to look into my options.

As with any manufactured product, we’ve got to look at the whole lifecycle to see where we can make green improvements. There’s the ingredients, the production, the packaging, the transport and storage to look at. Here’s the changes I came up with...

Burragumbilli and Mountain Goat brands work with organic ingredients. This helps improve soils and waterways near where the grains are grown. I can’t really taste the difference with beer, but I feel better knowing that there’s less pollution in the world when I drink organic. I’d love to see some certified GM-free beers as well.

Some breweries are greening their facilities. Mountain Goat brewery has solar panels, a rainwater tank, and uses recycled paper products. Cascade Pure is carbon offset, and the facilities for their entire range have been through a lot of energy- and water-efficiency improvements. Coopers have worked on water efficiency and waste minimisation. They’re setting a good example for the rest, so I think they deserve our support.

It’s nice to drink boutique beers from overseas, but this adds a lot to the transport emissions of the beer you drink. I choose local brews for my usual drinks, and save the international ones for a treat once in a while. Of course, the best local beer is the one you make yourself - I’ve got friends who’ve tried homebrew and my husband is looking into making some space for us to give it a go.

Luckily, most beer bottles are made of glass, so they’re easily recycleable. When I’m at a pub though, I help reduce the amount of waste by choosing a local brand that’s on tap. The kegs pubs use are the greenest option, according to G Magazine’s ‘Versus’ column.

Interestingly, someone’s invented a new bottlecrushing device to reduce the volume of glass waste. It’s safer and easier for staff than carting around massive recycling bins, and quieter for the neighbours than tipping out a bin full of empties! I'd love to see more pubs and restaurants try it out.

Finally, we need to think about storage. A lot of Aussies keep a ‘beer fridge’, which gets used for parties and bbqs but is left running all year round. It’s a bit of a waste of money though, since it adds to your power bill for not much benefit. These days I prefer to keep a good old-fashioned esky around, and fill it with ice when it’s needed.

Do you think these are changes you could make? They seemed like a little bit of a hassle when I first switched, but now I'd never go back to my old ways. Plus I’ve found some really tasty microbrews in my area, so I’ve got another incentive to stick with my locals on tap!