UK brewery Adnams has become the first brewer to measure the carbon footprint of its entire range of bottled beers, estimating that one bottle is equivalent to traveling 5.3 miles by train.
The Southwold-based brewer says after a “rigorous six months of data collection and analysis and a further six months for verification and auditing,” the analysis measured the carbon dioxide-equivalent emissions (CO2e) for the whole lifecycle of each beer, from the growth of the grains to the brewing and packaging, through to the distribution, retail, consumption and disposal of the bottle. Adnams performed the analysis with the help of the Adapt Low Carbon Group at the University of East Anglia.
“I needed to understand each beer’s environmental impact,” Benedict Orchard, Adnams’ Environmental Sustainability Manager, said on the brewery’s blog. “This is a complicated and intricate piece of work: it’s not as simple as just measuring electricity usage. Everything was considered, from how the hops and cereal are grown through to glass manufacture and label production. Now that we have this solid piece of ground work we can continue to produce results for all the products made by Adnams.”
In addition to train travel, the analysis allowed the brewer to compare its products to air travel — the CO2 footprint of a one-way economy flight from London to Sydney is the equivalent to 6245 bottles of Adnams beer — as well as other beverages: One pint of Tesco semi-skimmed Milk = 800gCO2e vs. 646gCO2e for a pint of Adnams; and a 330ml glass bottle of Coca-Cola regular = 360gCO2e vs. 375cCO2e per 330ml glass bottle of Adnams beer.
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So how did Adnams beers compare to each other? The popular Southwold Bitter proved to be the least impactful, with a footprint of 529g CO2e, while at the other end of the scale was Spindrift (in its original blue glass bottle, which is heavier than its new brown bottle) with a footprint of 711g CO2e. See the full lineup below.
The brewery discovered that the total carbon footprint is a combination of the different lifecycle stages, some of which carry greater weight than others; bottle-manufacturing was found to be the most carbon-heavy part of the process.
Once they received the results, the brewery said it was easy to see the difference between the brand’s lightweight 500ml bottles and the heavier blue bottle used for Spindrift. This led to them switching to the lighter bottle for that beer, as well — due to its lighter weight and the fact that the brown bottles are produced in the UK rather than Germany, the switch ultimately reduced Spindrift’s carbon footprint by a whopping 20%.
The amount and type of ingredients used in each beer also has make a difference, due to the amounts of agricultural and processing carbon used in its production, which explains why Broadside, Innovation and Tally-Ho, the brand’s fuller, hoppier beers, have slightly higher footprints than the rest.
In 2008, Adnams was the first UK brewer to launch a carbon-neutral beer — East Green — which has a lighter impact due to locally sourced barley, grown and malted in East Anglia, and aphid-resistant English Boadicea hops, which reduce the amount of pesticides used.
Adnams’ retail management accountant Richard Carter said: "East Green was a celebration of everything Adnams had achieved to reduce its impact on the environment — the eco-distribution centre, the energy-efficient brewery and the light-weighting of the Adnams beer bottle. Five years on, we are now at the stage where we have calculated the carbon footprint of all our bottled beers. We believe that there is a growing interest and knowledge of these issues amongst Adnams drinkers.”
In other responsible brewer news, last month the Hofmühl Brewery in Eichstätt, Bavaria announced that a combination of solar and bioenergy is not only supplementing its energy supply, but will enable it to achieve net-zero status by 2018. The brewery says the use of a solar thermal system has saved more than 50,000 liters of heating oil a year for the last few years. But the facility's power will now be supplemented by a combined heating and power (CHP) plant, powered by biomethane generated from brewer grains, yeast and other typically wasted matter created during beer production.