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Sustainable Pleasure: Organic Alcohol

Nothing says sustainability like college parties and the red Solo® cups which line the roads of Emory as though a giant game of flip cup has just been played out on the curb. It seems difficult to think about the long-term effects of your actions while chugging beer straight from a keg as your friends simultaneously grab your ankles and hoist you skyward. A recent survey found that four in every five college students drink, yet even in our somewhat more lucid states the choice of alcohol is given little thought. If there is any consideration at all, it usually does not go beyond economics and taste. As students ascend to the legal drinking age and begin purchasing their own alcohol, their curiosities will hopefully lead them beyond simply indulging in cheap beer and the subtle bouquet of Yellow Tail®.

Even though standards may differ depending on the place and evaluative institution, the term “organic” signifies that the ingredients in these alcohols were grown with substantially less fertilizers and pesticides than conventional growing methods. Pesticides are known to harm wildlife and pollute ground water, and the manufacturing of fertilizers produces significant amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. A recent study compared the Ecological Footprint of a conventional Tuscan wine and an organic one to determine which type of wine production places a greater demand on ecosystem goods and services. The conventional production system was found to have a Footprint value almost double that of the organic production. These results agree with a different study, which found that greenhouse gas emissions were significantly lower in organic than in conventional vineyards. Similar trends are found in the agricultural production of organic beer.

Organic alcohol seems an excellent choice in terms of its environmental impact. However, it is not the only factor that needs to be considered. Another important consideration is where the alcohol was produced since shipping contributes to greenhouse gases. Beertown.org and Winerybound.com are useful websites for finding local alcohol providers. Despite certain stigmas, box wine is better for the environment than bottled wine since it uses less packaging and produces less greenhouse gas emissions in transportation. Who knew that your exploits with Franzia® were actually better for the earth than some classy wine party?  Next time you throw a party think about having everybody bring his or her own cup. Since you won’t have to buy cups you will save money, and you’ll avoid the inevitable riot and drunken drive to Publix® when you run out. Plus, this will cut down on the “Which cup is mine?” problem that can lead to the spread of awkwardness–and oral herpes. Your guests can stand out by getting creative with decorating their cups or with what they use as cups. I personally enjoy drinking out of a flower vase.

Refilling beer kegs as opposed to buying bottles or cans is also better for the environment. Unfortunately, Emory has placed a ban on kegs for Fraternity parties. Besides producing more pollution, this just means that Frats trying to save money will just purchase more liquor for shots and mixed drinks. One study found that intoxication levels actually increased at Fraternity parties after a university banned kegs. If Emory wants to stand by their commitment to sustainability and student safety they must adopt a broader approach to policy formation based in reality. Students are going to drink. The question is whether they are going to be standing in line for beer with low alcohol content or taking shots of hard liquor and chugging Kool-aid® mixed with grain alcohol.

-Evan Crane ’11


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