I like beer. Just one of the many quirks that makes me a unique little snowflake.
Oh, you like beer too? Hmmmmm. I guess we can have that in common. Let’s keep this an exclusive club though, okay?
If you’re a beer drinker, I’m guessing you know what you like. Maybe you stick to lagers or light beer, preferring a crisp and refreshing beer with a lighter taste. Maybe you go to the other end of the spectrum and enjoy lambics or other Belgian beers. You might also like amber ales, brown ales, porters, stouts, radlers, goses, wheat beers, pale ales, and IPAs.
For the most part, people buy beer based on two considerations. First, do they like it? Second, what does it cost? Increasingly though, other considerations are coming into play.
Some beer drinkers will only purchase beer brewed by an independent microbrewery. Others want to buy beer brewed locally. Perhaps the decision is made based on what goes well with a particular meal. Or maybe you want or need to avoid gluten, so only a gluten-free beer will work.
These are all good and valuable considerations. But I’d like to add one more, which is a non-negotiable for me when I buy beer – is the beer in an aluminum can?
Yep, when I buy beer, I refuse to buy anything in a glass bottle. And it has nothing to do with taste (though I can argue the taste is better, because beer stays fresh in aluminum longer than glass). It has everything to do with the environment.
There are two main environmental differences between aluminum and glass that tilt in favor of aluminum. The first is rather obvious – glass is heavy and aluminum is light. The heavier something is, the more energy required to move it from point A to point B (such as the brewery to the store or the store to your home). Since beer is usually transported by a vehicle powered by carbon-laden fossil fuels, we can lighten our carbon footprint by transporting (and drinking) cans of beer instead of bottles of beer. This fact also supports the practice of buying local beer.
The second environmental difference is less apparent. Aluminum is a much better material for the purposes of recycling. True, both glass and aluminum are recyclable, but that doesn’t make them equivalent. Glass can shatter, which results in small pieces that slip through filters and ultimately end up in landfills. Since glass is heavier and bulkier as noted above, even more carbon emissions are associated with the disposal of it.
Perhaps most importantly, recycled aluminum can be sold by recycling companies at a higher price per ton, making it a more valuable recycled material. In some places, including my backyard (the greater Atlanta area), recycled glass is so de-valued that recycling companies won’t even accept it.
It’s important to drink beer responsibly, and the most important thing is to drink it in moderation. We can also be environmentally responsible drinkers too. Think about that the next time you reach for a six-pack.