Water and food insecurity, environmental degradation, pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and green-washing are part of the alcohol industry’s sustainability footprint
Alcohol production, consumption fuels climate crisis. But very few people actually think of alcohol in terms of its climate impact and the environmental harm that alcohol production is causing.
Voters in the Mexican City of Mexicali have rejected a giant US-owned brewery over water shortages concerns in their region. Mexico’s national human rights commission had warned the beer maker risked violating the right to water and highlighted irregularities in the permitting process. The new brewery would use up 25% of the communities drinking water. 76.1% of voters cast ballots against the $1.4bn brewery.
The UN General Assembly has declared access to clean and healthy environment a universal human right.
The resolution notes that the right to a healthy environment is related to existing international law and affirms that its promotion requires the full implementation of multilateral environmental agreements.
The newly recognised human right will be crucial to tackling the triple planetary crisis – the three main interlinked environmental threats that humanity currently faces:
- climate change,
- pollution, and
- biodiversity loss.
But the alcohol industry fuels the three planetary crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution.
Through its multiple health, social and economic harms, alcohol is a massive obstacle to sustainable human development, adversely affecting all three dimensions of development and reaching into all aspects of society.
Alcohol adversely affects 14 out of 17 SDGs and a total of 54 targets.
Alcohol production threatens sustainable use of natural resources. The production of alcoholic beverages is very resource-intensive and not environmentally sustainable. By some estimates, up to 92% of brewing ingredients are wasted.
Alcohol production degrades ecosystems and threatens biodiversity.
According to the BBC climate change food calculator alcohol, particularly beer, fuels climate change.
When calculating for emissions from one pint of beer – taken 3 to 5 times a week and within the guidelines for alcohol use provided by NHS – it amounts to 139kg of greenhouse gas emissions per year.
Substituting tea, coffee and alcohol with more sustainable alternatives helps fight the climate crisis.
The largest overall contribution to diet-related GHG emissions came from meat (32% of total diet-related GHG emissions), with drinks (15%), dairy (14%), and cakes, biscuits & confectionery (8%) also contributing relatively high amounts.
The GHG emissions from drinks were dominated by tea, coffee and alcoholic beverages which, together with cakes, biscuits and confectionary, suggest 24% of total diet-related GHG emissions derive from largely unnecessary foods and drinks.
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