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Addressing Climate Change One Beer At A Time

Publication: US Nature4Climate blog

Author: Nathan Henry

Think about the foods and beverages you consume every day.  Perhaps you start the morning off with a bowl of cereal, have a sandwich or salad for lunch and a big bowl of spaghetti and meatballs for dinner – capped off by a cold, refreshing beer. The grains, vegetables and meats that are used to produce these foods all have a carbon footprint. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, agricultural lands are responsible for just under 10% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Now let’s focus on that cold beer you’re holding in your hand. In addition to the carbon generated by growing the crops needed to make beer, producing, packaging, shipping and selling the product also generates carbon. The State of Oregon estimated that beer consumption in just the Beaver State generates more than 200,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide a year – the same amount emitted by 42,800 vehicles.

There are a lot of things that can be done to make beer more sustainable, from more energy efficient manufacturing and shipping to improved crop management. However, one innovative partnership on the West Coast decided to get to the very root of the problem – and the results taste great.

What is a climate-friendly beer?

I don’t claim to be an expert on rating and reviewing beer. I know I’m not a fan of pale ales, but I enjoy a witbier after a bike ride on a warm summer day. I’ll drink any stout you put in front of me, and one can often find a hearty Belgian-style ale in my refrigerator. I even make my own beer on occasion, with decent enough results. I also have the good fortune to live in Portland, Oregon – a mecca for the craft brewing industry.

I like trying interesting beers produced by the countless craft breweries that have popped up around the country. The proliferation of beer flavors and styles over the last few decades has been astounding. When I read that Patagonia Provisions partnered with Portland’s Hopworks Urban Brewery and The Land Institute to create climate-friendly beer, I was intrigued – both professionally and as a beer lover.

My professional interest in this product is rooted in my role as the project manager for U.S. Nature4Climate – a coalition of 10 environmental NGOs and organizations dedicated to sustainable agriculture, forestry and business practices that are working together to ensure our forests, farms, ranches, grasslands and wetlands are an important part of our strategy to combat climate change.

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