In Honor of St. Patrick’s Day: How Green is Your Beer?


With St. Patrick’s Day coming up next week, about two dozen breweries are making a commitment to green beer—and not just in color.

The group, which includes globally recognized brands like Guinness and craft breweries such as Redhook Brewery and Deschutes Brewery, has just signed on to a business call for action on climate change.

It’s called the Climate Declaration and it’s organized by sustainability advocacy group Ceres. The beer companies that signed the declaration recognize that climate change is impacting their businesses—from lower hops yields to scarcer water resources—and are taking steps to address it.

So what are the companies doing to go green? Let’s start with Guinness, well, because it’s Irish.

Since water—the main ingredient in its products—is becoming increasingly scarce in many parts of the world, Guinness’s parent company Diageo has focused on boosting water efficiency. It is also working to cut water waste in water-stressed regions, reporting a 12 percent drop over the last year.

Breweries are also getting creative with their water use. At New Belgium Brewing Co. and Smuttynose Brewing Co., methane—a potent greenhouse gas—is captured from their wastewater treatment processes and used to generate electricity.

And it’s not just water that breweries are acting on.

Deschutes, one of Oregon’s largest craft breweries, was the first in its industry to make its carbon footprint publicly available. Meanwhile, Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing has done a full life-cycle analysis to calculate the carbon footprint of its most popular Fat Tire beer (which by the way is 3,189 grams of carbon dioxide equivalent).

“Now, 3,189g in and of itself is kind of a meaningless number,” New Belgium says on its website. “However, it provides a baseline to measure the results of future improvements and, most revealing, is what makes up that number. There definitely were some surprises.”

Other signatories to the Climate Declaration—including Allagash Brewery, Brewery Vivant, Deschutes Brewery, Odell Brewing Co., Redhook and Widmer Brothers Brewing—use 100 percent renewable energy, with some installing on-site solar arrays while others buy renewable energy credits to offset their electricity use.

Sustainable sourcing is another focus for companies like Ninkasi Brewing Co., one of the fastest growing craft breweries in Oregon. Ninkasi sources almost all of its hops from the Pacific Northwest, its beer bottles are made from as much as 60 percent post-consumer waste glass from Portland and they’re packaged in carriers and cartons made from recycled or renewable materials.

With a free trial to the Environment & Safety Resource Center, you’ll have access to a comprehensive source for environment news, analysis, legal and regulatory developments, and critical case law.