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Carbon footprint of low-alcohol beer a third of wine

Men’s ‘alcohol footprint’ is nearly twice that of women’s, despite the fact men drink more beer and, generally speaking, beer is better than wine when it comes to the environment. The reason for this disparity is the amount of alcoholic beverages consumed. Researchers Ellinor Hallström and Ulf Sonesson at RISE have investigated how Swedes’ alcohol consumption affects the climate. The main climate factor in terms of alcoholic beverages involves their transportation and packaging.

More alcohol is consumed in the summer months than the rest of the year. Alcohol accounts for roughly three percent of the carbon footprint from Swedes’ food and drink. Low-alcohol beer produces the smallest footprint with 0.73 kg CO2e per litre, since it is essentially only brewed in Sweden and is therefore not transported long distances. Regular-strength beer, on the other hand, is imported in much greater volumes and produces a slightly higher footprint: 0.81 kg CO2e per litre. Fortified wine produces the largest footprint at 2.38 kg CO2e per litre.

One might think that organically grown, artisanal wines produce a smaller carbon footprint than industrially produced wines, but it is often the other way around. Organic farming generally produces lower harvests and a smaller volume of grapes per surface area, which is worse for the climate.

The optimal solution from a climate perspective would be to ship basic wine in bulk to Sweden from somewhere in Europe

Transportation and packaging major climate factors

Tank transport by ship for bottling in Sweden produces a smaller footprint than transporting bottles by truck or train. Packaging is the second major climate factor. Cartons, boxes, plastic bottles and aluminium cans produce a smaller footprint than lightweight bottles, which in turn produce a smaller footprint than thick bottles.

– “The optimal solution from a climate perspective would be to ship basic wine in bulk to Sweden from somewhere in Europe, box it here and then transport it to the various Systembolaget outlets,” says Sonesson. “However, I would like to stress that, when it comes to wine, the climate impact is perhaps not the greatest concern. It is a crop requiring extensive spraying of pesticides, which can affect local ecosystems.”

Men’s ‘alcohol footprint’ nearly twice that of women’s

Surveys indicate that Swedes’ alcohol footprint is, on average, 52 kg CO2e per year, where men account for 68 kg CO2e per year compared to women at 36 kg CO2e. This means that men’s footprint is 90% higher than women’s, even though men drink more beer than wine.

The report titled ‘Climate impact of consumption in Sweden’ is based on the dietary and drinking habits of 50,000 Swedes. The study was conducted by RISE and the Karolinska Institute and utilised the Karolinska Institute’s data on consumption.

Greenhouse gas emissions in kg CO2e per litre

Low-alcohol beer 0.73 kg
Non-alcoholic beer 0.76 kg
Regular-strength beer 0.81 kg
Spirits 2.07 kg
Wine 2.16 kg
Fortified wine 2.38 kg

Carbon footprint of different beverage packaging in kg CO2e per litre

Beer:

Keg 0.04 kg
Deposit-return bottle 0.10 kg
Aluminium can 0.14 kg
Plastic bottle 0.14 kg
Disposable bottle 0.34 kg

Wine:

Plastic bottle 750 ml 0.24 kg
1 l carton 0.13 kg
3 l box 0.14 kg
Glass bottle 750 ml 0.77 kg

Spirits:

Glass bottle 750 ml 0.77 kg

Published: 2020-07-06
Ulf Sonesson

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Ulf Sonesson

Forsknings och affärsutvecklare

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