(4.3% English make from 500 ml bottle) Adnam’s East Green ale is as refreshing on the taste as it is on the environment. The first carbon neutral British beer that champions environmental concerns while not sacrificing taste. This ale is produced by the Adnam’s Brewery of Southwold, Suffolk, and uses a unique combination of local sourcing and supply chain optimization techniques to offset its carbon footprint. Is it clever marketing or an honest attempt?
First off, the beer!
On the pour, this is a light golden ale with a frothy white head which dissipates quickly. It smells and tastes cool like a refreshing golden ale, with a mild citrus touch and a nice bitter aftertaste. This type of ale is best enjoyed in the spring and summer and so for me – in September – this is the last of a disappearing seasonal variety.
So what exactly does it mean to be carbon neutral? And why the hell does that matter? Well, to be carbon neutral means that something has a net zero carbon footprint, i.e. however much carbon is created in its production process is then offset through some other form of activity. In this case, the beer has a net zero carbon footprint because of several key steps taken by the brewery. Case in point, from ingredients to bottle design this beer is conscious of its environmental impact.
Case in point:
- Marris Otter malts are grown and malted in East Anglia. Locally grown and processed means that transport is kept to short distances only and thereby creates less CO2 emissions (hence all that ‘buy local’ stuff you keep seeing on cotton tote bags).
- Boadicea hops are used because they are a local variety and they are naturally resistant to aphids. These little bugs are usually killed using a pesticide which is harmful to the environment, so using a hop strand with natural defenses allows for less chemicals. Its this hop variety which delivers the slight citrus/grassy taste.
- During the brewing process they capture 100% of the steam and use it to heat 90% of the following brew through their Energy Recovery System.
- The bottle is made from a lighter glass which helps reduce its weight and therefore utilises less fossil fuels in transport as well as produces less for recycling or waste.
Might this be just a marketing ploy? How do I trust all these companies exploiting the ethical consumers’ ever growing niche market?
There is nothing more dangerous than knowledge, and an educated consumer is a powerful one. It pays to do your research and study your labels. There are a number of independent labeling schemes which seek to create their own brand awareness through labeling something as ‘ethical’ or ‘organic’. Take for example, Fairtrade, which is an independent labeling group that investigates and assesses supply chains to ensure that the developing world’s producers receive a fair deal on the raw materials they provide, for instance through guaranteeing a standard minimum price farmers can rely on. When you see a Fairtrade logo, as explained in my review for Meantime’s Coffee Porter, you can rest assured that the supply chain was well-managed, and the producers received a sustainable, consistent and fair deal.
But be sure to remain logo aware – not all logos are created equal! Take for example the Rain Forest Alliance. While this may look like a parallel and equal scheme, you make the call: unlike Fairtrade where a company cannot carry the emblem unless 100% of the raw ingredient is sourced Fairtrade, the Rain Forest Alliance will allow companies to use its stamp when a meager 30% share of a product’s content meets its criteria. Also, a very important difference is that the Rain Forest Alliance does not guarantee a minimum price for producers, because it is focused on its environmental and not on social impact. For example, according to a Guardian article, a price breakdown would look like this:
- Fairtrade guaranteed minimum price to developing country producer = $1.21/pound of coffee plus a $.05 ‘social premium to invest in community projects’
- Rain Forest Alliance will not guarantee a minimum price, but argues that it can still provide a high price for the coffee. Their price for the same pound of coffee was $.96/pound without any additional premiums. This is tied directly to the global coffee market, one which is like any other commodity market, subject to economic forces of supply and demand which can lead to a volatility. The net result is an economically less sustainable living which may potentially reinforce and sustain poverty. On the other hand, it does guarantee environmental standards which contribute to sustainable livelihoods.
- So what does it come down to? PRICE: minimise overheads and maximise profit at any cost. Any cost.
What impact does this have? Well according to one producer (from the Fairtrade website):
“Without the alternative trade market, the reality for our co-operatives would have been different. The learning process and price premium have made the difference between a group of producers with a chance of obtaining a dignified level of life and those producers without.” Carlos Vargas Leiton, Coocafe Manager
So what do the logos on the the actual beer mean??
CRed operates through the University of East Anglia and was the independent assessor of the work done by Adnam’s Brewery to reduce their carbon footprint and create what they believe to be the first carbon neutral beer. According to the manager of CRED (Adnam’s Brewery Website), “The carbon lifecycle assessment from farm to delivery helps Adnams target key elements in the process and reduce the emissions of the overall product”.
The Carbon Trust is a private sector firm which seeks to help both public and private sector clients reduce their carbon footprints. The logo here is for an award which in 2007 recognised the Adnam’s Brewery as the annual winner of the Carbon Trust/ Daily Telegraph Innovation Award having taken both the spot for best private sector firm as well as top notch for best UK firm for carbon innovation.
So how do I reduce my carbon footprint?
Alright, so there are many books and studies about this, but be sure of of a few things: climate change is real, its bad for humans as well as all those other living organisms on earth (you know cute things like otters and puppies but also important things like bees and trees). Here is a quick and by no means complete list of a few tips on how you can make an impact borrowed from Carbon Footprint:
- Switch your electricity company to a green company (find out more here)
- Turn off your electrical appliances when there are not in use! Lights, DVD player, computer…!
- Turn down your central heating as well as the water heating. Go for a light reduction of something like 1-2 degrees C (say 2-4 degrees Fahrenheit) and review your bills for savings
- Run on your dishwasher and laundry only when its full! And hang dry! It takes up half my flat, but saves me plenty in electricity…
- Only boil what you need in that kettle!
- Car share, use public transport, get a bike (take a helmet, trust me)
- Buy local, organic and/or seasonal fruits and vegetables when available
- Ditch the plane and go for the train: I recently took the train from London to Provence, France and it was brilliant, and not to mention a much more pleasant way to travel. It was actually virtually the same amount of time when you factor in getting to and from the airport, checking in… plus you can take bottled beer (or wine since it was France)…on board!
Climate change is something which we can help minimse in our everyday activities, much like the negative impact on the developing world’s producers in how we act as consumers. Whether it is using green energy companies, buying Fairtrade coffee from Cafe Direct, or drinking East Green ale, it is important to be an ethical and educated consumer. Powerful elites in business, much like in government, fear one thing: an educated public with a will to act. Knowledge is power, and that power can change the way governments and business is run.
You want proof? Why not ask Sainsbury’s who switched to only carry Fairtrade bananas solely due to consumer demand? It was the largest commitment of its kind to date, and set a precedent for what knowledge and will power can accomplish in the retail industry. And for Adnam’s role, I applaud them and hope other industry leaders follow suite.
Now stand up and be counted, as they are already counting on you not to…and again cheers to something that matters.