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The GreenMan’s Guide to Alcohol and Parties

[email protected] | Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dear Domers,

Normally, I’d cherish an empty inbox — you know, one without e-mails from the clubs I signed up for freshman year whose listservs I just can’t bring myself to unsubscribe from even though I’ve never attended a single meeting (because how do you tell someone that you actually don’t want be a part of Habitat for Humanity?). But lately, the absolute dearth of questions you’ve sent my way has me feeling a little blue, which is clearly not in my nature (because I’m green, right?).

In any case, I refuse to have a giant grey box on the Viewpoint page saying “The Observer apologizes for the absence of ‘Ask the GreenMan'” — the comics already waste enough paper that way. So I’ve chosen my own topic that I think may be of interest to the general student body: alcohol.

With St. Patrick’s Day only a month away (or slightly more for those celebrating on March 23), green beer is definitely on the brain. This got me wondering: how can I green my alcohol consumption beyond just dumping some food coloring into my beverage of choice?

So here it is: The GreenMan’s Guide to Alcohol and Parties.

First, so that ResLife doesn’t have any reason to uncover my true identity, I will preface these tips by re-iterating that consumption of alcohol by those under 21 is illegal in the state of Indiana. Regardless of age, the over-consumption of alcohol is dangerous, and can cause serious damage to self, others, and even the surrounding environment. For starters, the easiest way to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of your alcohol consumption is a no-brainer: reduce the amount of transportation demanded by your drinking habit.

With so much of the social scene located on or within walking distance of campus (weather permitting), this one shouldn’t be too hard for most of us to adopt. If going off campus, choose an establishment you can walk to like Kildare’s, the Backer, or a nearby house. If your partying preferences require you to travel farther — and I promise Student Government isn’t paying me to say this, but — take Transpo! At the very least, you should completely fill your cab (this also improves your chances of haggling for a $2 fare).

Another option to decrease your drinking-related travel is to cut out the trip to the liquor store by brewing your own beer. It takes some dedication and patience, but homebrewing is a fairly simple and affordable process. Plus, homebrews help us embrace another key environmental principle: buying local. By making your own beer, you eliminate the environmental impact of shipping the beer and you can drink it from reusable containers. As an aside, homebrewing is not expressly discussed in DuLac’s current alcohol policy.

Another tenet of environmentalism that you may not think applies to alcohol but does: buying organic. Organic beer and wine are pretty widely available, and organic brands of liquor are out there too. Just as with any product, you should try to reduce packaging as much as possible. When possible, buy in bulk, ideally keg-sized bulk. Kegs are actually about as green as you can get, providing over a hundred servings in a single container that is reused over and over again. Note: pursuant to DuLac, this tip can only be followed at off-campus gatherings. The type of packaging your alcohol comes in can make a difference too. For example, based on a life-cycle analysis of wine stoppers, natural corks have the lowest carbon footprint followed by synthetic plastic corks. Aluminum screw caps have by far the highest impact, so class it up and invest in a corkscrew. Choosing between bottles and cans is largely a wash because both glass and aluminum can be recycled infinitely (unlike paper, which can only be recycled an average seven times before the fibers become too short). In case you haven’t heard, recycling is kind of a good thing: glass bottles take over 4,000 years to decompose in a landfill, and every recycled aluminum can saves enough energy to power a T.V. for three hours. So for the love of all that is green, please recycle your cans, bottles, and Solo cups after a party.

One last fun fact: have you ever worried that the lime wedge at the bottom of your Corona bottle means you can’t recycle it? Don’t! Recycling facilities these days are incredibly sophisticated, and can easily handle your lingering fruit garnishes.

Drinking happens. So please, drink smart and drink green.

The GreenMan

Have a question about the environment or how to go green in your personal life? Wondering about the ethics of dating someone who drives a Hummer, for example? Email me at

[email protected]