Should we be going teetotal to save the planet?

Most forms of alcohol are created from incredibly thirsty crops.

One 500ml bottle of beer will have needed almost 150 litres of water (300 times its own volume) to create. Wine is even more thirsty, with a glass taking 110 litres – meaning that the bottle that you might drink with friends will have needed more than half a metric ton of water.

Why does this not seem to be of concern. We are constantly warned about the carbon footprint and other environmental impacts of our food and our clothes, how has the drink industry avoided the same.

Apart from this, the carbon footprint of the drinks industry amounts to an average of more than 50kg per person per year. Given that a large proportion of the worlds population are adding nothing to this tally (there is no carbon emissions from walking to a well stream or tap and drinking water) this is likely several hundred kg per person in the west. As a general rule of thumb, the more alcohol that a drink contains the more carbon has been released to create it – meaning that a general switch in preference from low strength drinks to stronger (as is happening in many places around the globe) comes with increased carbon emissions.

Carbon emissions get a great deal of the environmental worry at the moment, and indeed it is a worry. However, there are large parts of the world where water shortage is an increasing concern. Desalination is usually an extremely energy intensive process, and therefore has a high carbon footprint, so using current technologies, even where possible this is not a long term solution.

If a family in the UK reducing their wine consumption by 2 bottles a month that would save 15,000 litres of water. This isn’t to say that readers should go teetotal, but if you are trying to cut your impact on the natural world, perhaps having less alcohol might be a simple place to start.

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