MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) With added time in your home and warmer days in our future, you may be enjoying a cold beer from time to time. Next time you do, remember to recycle that can or bottle and think how you can help reduce your carbon footprint.
Beer is a significant contributor to many local economies. In 2018, local craft brewers accounted for nearly a fourth of the nation’s $114 billion beer market. Craft breweries also contributed more than 550,000 jobs, according to an annual study from the Brewers Association. Per capita outputs were highest in Colorado, Vermont, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Maine. In Wisconsin, the economic impact is more than 2 million dollars with more than 16,000 jobs.
However, trouble is brewing as climate change threatens the key ingredients in beer. According to a 2018 study in Nature Plants, extreme heat and drought can have a sobering effect on yields of barley (the most common grain in beer). In addition, nearly all U.S. hops are grown in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho—where the necessary water from snowpack is trending downward.
Brewers and researchers are working to adapt to these changes. For example, Anheuser-Busch InBev has partnered with The Nature Conservancy to preserve water supply in the West, while establishing “water funds” in Latin America to help protect water quality there. Other projects are working towards pest-resistant hops or drought-resistant barley.
Many brewers are also reducing their own environmental footprints. Some are powering facilities with renewable electricity, while others are deploying electric vehicles for transportation. But sometimes, materials like glass may have a larger footprint than energy, as the New Belgium Brewing Company discovered. Using recycled bottles and improving the complete supply chain—including how beer is made, packaged, and shipped—could help reduce these impacts.