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Where possible, lessons learned from carbon consultancy projects will be shared here.

By guest, Oct 23 2014 01:42PM

The first published carbon footprint assessment of a beer by a small craft brewery – a Pale Ale produced by The Kernel brewery – has shown there are many carbon-saving benefits of drinking a local beer, such as the Kernel Pale Ale, as opposed to a big-brand lager.

This news is unlikely to sway the average lager-drinker to preferring craft beer. However, craft beer environmentalists can be assured that the climate change impact of a bottle of The Kernel’s Pale Ale can be around 27% lower than the average European bottled beer . Better still, choosing to drink a pint of draught Kernel beer rather than a bottle reduces emissions by 48% over the life of the beer.

Unsurprisingly, with The Kernel Brewery’s focus on local distribution and selling direct to the customer where possible, emissions from distribution are low compared to the European average (BIER 2012) and other well-established breweries . Only 20% of The Kernel bottle sales are outside of London and 26% of sales are direct to the customer, which have zero emissions for the brewery.

However some other findings of the report may be more surprising. For example:

More than half the emissions of the Kernel’s bottled Pale Ale come from the production of the packaging, despite packaging only being one of the eight life cycle stages of the beer.

The footprint of The Kernel Pale Ale could be reduced by around 13% if the bottle was made of green glass instead of amber.

Brewery emissions at The Kernel are lower than industry averages – in fact they are in the top 10% for brewery energy efficiency – going against the general trend for smaller breweries to be less efficient .

Cool World Consulting's report on The Kernel’s kegged Pale Ale also found that switching from disposable ‘one way’ kegs (which are currently used) to stainless steel kegs for all distribution apart from export would reduce whole life emissions by around 5% .

So why is a carbon footprint useful?

Many companies do it voluntarily to gain the knowledge to develop more sustainable products that can stand out from their competitors or to enhance their brand. Some do it to measure their company energy use and work out where savings (in cost and energy) could be made. Larger companies have to audit their energy to comply with legislation.

But some companies like The Kernel brewery are just genuinely interested in the impact that their product has environmentally, as well as commercially. Commercial success is not the be-all and end-all for every company. Once you have a clear idea of the climate change impact of your business or product, you can try and align your commercial and environmental strategies.

The owner of the Kernel Brewery, Evin O'Riordain, said: "Assessing the carbon footprint of our beers was important for us. It allowed us to see which elements of the life of our beers have the biggest impact on climate change. Lucy tested the impact of different variables - such as recycled content and glass colour of the bottles, reusable vs. one-way kegs, and distribution methods and distances - so we could clearly see which potential changes to our processes would significantly reduce our impact, and which would have little impact. "

Whatever your reasons for doing it, understanding the climate change impact of your carbon footprint can be enlightening – and comparisons with industry averages and other carbon footprints can show you where and how changes could be made to improve your company’s or product’s footprint.

Carbon footprint of The Kernel beer, compared to a random selection of other things*

25g = ironing one shirt

145g = disposable nappy

203g = a pint of draught Kernel Pale Ale

340g = a large latte (coffee)

368g = Kernel 500ml bottle Pale Ale

500g = big dairy ice cream from a van

710g = an average car driving one mile

1.04kg = bottle of wine

12kg = 1kg cheese

38kg = leg of lamb

13.5 tonnes = flying first class London to Hong Kong return

* Footprints of other things taken from How Bad are Bananas? The carbon Footprint of everything by Mike Berners-Lee

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