This year’s SuperBowl XLIX scored big points for being one of the greenest sporting events ever, using 100% wind power for all of its electricity needs and using energy-efficient LEDs to light the big game for the first time. The NFL and the University of Phoenix Stadium worked together to create zero waste within the 12-block “Super Bowl Central” downtown area by stepping up its recycling efforts and donating unused food and event materials to local groups. And both the New England Patriots and the Seattle Seahawks have invested significantly in solar energy, with their stadiums ranking fifth and sixth, respectively, in installed solar capacity among all sports franchises.
Seahawks owner (and Microsoft cofounder) Paul Allen initiated the greening of their stadium, and also co-founded the Green Sports Alliance to drive the greening of all professional sports. His group found that 18% of Americans say they pay attention to science, while 56% say they pay attention to sports. He believes putting solar panels on football stadiums will send a message to supply chains that green energy is a worthwhile investment.
So … what about extrapolating this idea to … beer? While more than 70,000 fans attended the Super Bowl at the Phoenix stadium, the number of Americans glued to their TVs around the country may have surpassed the 111.5 million viewers of last year’s game, which had ranked as the largest audience in U.S. television history. And it is estimated that Super Bowl Sunday fans drink 325.5 million gallons of beer, or enough to fill almost 500 Olympic sized pools. So, imagine the significance of reducing the carbon footprint of producing and distributing beer in terms of minimizing pollution and climate change impacts?
Migration Brewing of Portland Oregon is doing just that. It introduced its new low-carbon brew earlier this month, with half the carbon footprint of its other beers. Fletcher Beaudoin, who led the low-carbon beer project for the Oregon Environmental Council, explains: “You know climate change and carbon emissions is a really hard topic to talk about sometimes. So we came together and talked about this idea of beer as being something that is very tangible. Something a lot of people engage with on a daily basis.”
And bigger players are doing the same. MillerCoors just announced the completion of the largest solar installation at any brewery in the U.S., and Heineken is using a comprehensive carbon footprint model to calculate and improve the greenhouse gas emissions of its beverage production. If even just some of Super Bowl Sunday’s beer drinking fans opted for a lower carbon brew, the impact would be staggering.
Community leaders may be inspired to follow the lead of these professional sports franchises by integrating low carbon brewing measures into their local climate plans and programs, and encouraging their constituents to drink beer that’s not only low carbon, but also local.
Some people ride a bike instead of driving a car to reduce their contributions to climate change. Others shrink their carbon footprint by installing solar panels on their rooftops. Now, a Portland brewery has another suggestion: Drink low-carbon beer.
Migration Brewing introduced its new low-carbon brew on Thursday. It’s a variation on the brewery’s longtime red beer Blood, Sweat and Red, with half the carbon footprint. They call it the Little Foot Red.
To find out exactly how many carbon emissions were generated by the brewery’s traditional red, consultant Molly Hatfield of Hatfield Sustainability Resources did what’s called a life cycle assessment.
She tallied up all the carbon emissions generated over the course of the beer’s lifetime – including growing the ingredients, shipping them to the brewery, brewing the beer, packaging it and distributing it to customers.