If you speak to anyone working in the beer industry today, one thing is clear – brewing, in general, is not an environmentally friendly business, which let’s be frank, is a bummer.
Fermenting beer creates carbon dioxide, which is then usually released into the atmosphere, adding to the greenhouse gases which are causing climate change.
But if we head Down Under, you can find a brewery that is using algae – yep, that slimy looking green stuff - to cut down emissions and fight climate change. Cheers to that!
A craft brewery in Sydney, Australia has partnered with climate change scientists at the University of Technology Sydney to develop a way to use microalgae to capture the carbon dioxide and turn it into oxygen! Ahhh…
70% of our planet is water and that’s where algae grows, so there’s plenty to go around. Microalgae are tiny photosynthetic plants that can’t be seen by the human eye and they create half of the oxygen on the planet… Well, they do say good things come in small packages!
So, how does it work?
To make beer you’ve got to have yeast, and brewer’s yeast eats sugar - which is what creates the alcohol but is also what produces the carbon dioxide. If we use algae in this process, though, it eats the carbon dioxide and releases oxygen, so the two together naturally balance each other out - like the ying and yang of craft beer.
The brewers capture carbon dioxide off the top of a beer fermenter – a container where the good stuff is made – and it’s then fed through a bioreactor that stores the microalgae. By feeding algae the carbon dioxide, it stops it being released into the atmosphere. They estimate their algae releases as much oxygen as two hectares of bushland – that’s the equivalent of 6 football fields!
Oscar at the brewery in Sydney wants to help other brewers use algae to cut their carbon emissions too. After all, the planet needs our help and now beer could be the answer. We’ll drink to that!
Others around the world are doing what they can to make the beer world greener too…
Craft brewers over in America are getting creative and coming up with unique ways to decrease their use of natural resources. From making beers from wastewater and giving leftover grain to local ranches to feed their animals, going green is at the top of their menu.
Big names like Carlsberg and Heineken are taking action too, from solar-powered breweries and planting trees to try and make the industry more sustainable.
Heineken aims to brew its beer using only renewable energy by 2023 – a pretty bold target – which they hope to achieve through alternative fuels for its offices and breweries. They’re also aiming for a fully carbon-neutral supply chain by 2040 – so that’s all their farming, packaging and distribution too. Awesome.
Carlsberg has joined forces with conservation charity, WWF, to help restore seagrass meadows around the UK coastline. Seagrass is a marine plant that can absorb carbon – the greenhouse gas with the highest levels of emissions in the atmosphere – up to 35 times faster than a rainforest when it is grouped together in underwater meadows. These act as natural carbon sinks and are critical for marine life, but are unfortunately at risk from pollution and extreme weather.
[ Seagrass absorbs a whopping 10%+ of the ocean’s carbon every year – despite only making up around 0.2% of the seafloor. ]
Up to 92% of the seagrass around the UK disappeared in the last century – so it’s crucial to support efforts like these to replenish such a super sea-plant.
Don’t know about you, but all this talk of beer has made us thirsty… Chin chin!
Next article: Don’t miss the bus!