How the alcohol industry impacts the environment
Most of us are aware of the negative effects that alcohol can have on health - but what about the environment? Every step from producing alcohol to storing it on shelves has an environmental impact.
Production of ingredients essential to making different types of alcohol, such as barley and hops for beer, agave for tequila, and grapes for wine, requires water and fertilizer, among other things. Large amounts of water go into the alcoholic products themselves. Distilling and brewing processes require energy, namely in the form of heat, and generate waste products. Finally, transportation, packaging, and storage also contribute to the environmental impact of alcoholic beverages [1, 2].
Though there is limited data quantifying the environmental impact of the alcohol industry, one can only imagine that the rise in alcohol sales has come with an additional cost to the health of our planet.
What is “sustainable mixology?”
In line with our plant-based lifestyles, we aim to be sustainable while cooking and mixing up our non-alcoholic drinks. We use the term “sustainable mixology” to refer to the steps that we take to reduce our environmental impact when preparing mocktails.
Food waste, in particular, is a major problem in the U.S. and globally. Data from the United States Department of Agriculture suggests that food waste is as much as 30-40 percent of the food supply. This has significant, negative implications for food security and environmental sustainability.
By taking a few simple steps, you can reduce the environmental impact of your mocktail. Here are our top tips for sustainable mixology:
At the store...
1. Use eco-friendly produce bags and tote bags for groceries versus plastic bags.
2. Choose glass containers and products in biodegradable packaging over plastic containers when possible; for example, look for pre-made juices in glass bottles.
3. Shop at your local farmers’ market.
4. Choose local and seasonal ingredients in the store. These also may be more affordable!
5. Shop smart and only buy what you need.
6. Plan ahead and try to reduce the number of times you drive to the store. Walk or take public transit if you are able.
In the kitchen...
7. Freeze unused produce before it spoils—or buy frozen produce to begin with.
8. Compost leftover or spoiled produce or unused pieces of fruit (e.g. rinds, skins, bruised spots).
9. Zest citrus fruits before juicing. Zest can be used to add flavor to drinks, baked goods, salad dressings, and even savory dishes.
10. Use leftover canned coconut milk in Indian or Asian dishes, or to make your own vegan ice cream!
11. Grow your own herbs at home.
12. Freeze extra herbs for later: Simply chop the herbs and freeze with water in ice cube trays. Add to your sauté pan when cooking, and the water will evaporate.
13. Store leftover ingredients in glass or silicone containers.
When preparing mocktails...
14. Use your muddled herbs to whip up your second mocktail. The flavor may be slightly diluted, but you will decrease your waste.
15. Eat any fruit or other garnish you add to your drink (or compost the leftovers!).
16. Serve mocktails with reusable straws and limit use of single-serve cups.
17. Coordinate your drink recipes with food recipes to reduce the risk of throwing away unused herbs. Here are some suggestions:
- Roast vegetables with thyme, rosemary or sage (or any combination of these herbs)
- Add mint to a salad, such as a watermelon, feta, and mint salad
- Use leftover basil to make homemade tomato sauce
- Add fresh ginger to stir fry or curry
For more tips, grab our book Drinking for Two: Nutritious Mocktails for the Mom-to-Be!