In 2006, wine sales totaled $26 billion and liquor sales totaled $17 billion. That same year, the average American drank 2.3 gallons of wine and 21.6 gallons of beer. That's a lot of alcohol. In 2005, 14785 tons of pesticides were used on wine grapes in California. It is also estimated that farmers spray hops (one of the primary ingredients in most beers) with pesticides 14 times per year. That's a lot of pesticide. In 2006, more than 208 million barrels (there are 31 gallons in one barrel) of beer, 673 million gallons of wine, and 425 million gallons of liquor were shipped across state lines. And that's a lot of transportation.
So why go organic? Protect yourself and your family from pesticide residues; protect farmworkers from having to work with the stuff; protect water resources from pesticide runoff; prevent soil erosion caused by big mono-crop agricultural practices. Why go local? Support your local economy; support local producers with sustainable practices; cut down on the amount of fossil fuel needed to get your beverage of choice to you. Why go (fill in your favorite renewable energy source here)-powered? Emit less carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases; use less fossil fuel and reduce dependency on foreign sources; support renewable technologies; reduce air pollution and illnesses associated with it. And those are just to name a few reasons.
Conclusion: If you choose to drink, drink right.
Whether you drink red or white, there are plenty of eco-options. Bonterra offers certified organic wines ranging from cabernet sauvingnon to zinfandel to voignier. Frey Vineyards are organic and biodynamic (they seek to be self-sustaining within the surrounding ecosystem). Benziger winery is known for their sustainable farming practices. Try a taste of Grgich Hills, a winery in California that not only grows its grapes organically but also added 860 photovoltaic panels to its roof. In a similar vein, Frog's Leap is solar-powered and organic. Of course, we can't forget Shafer Vineyards that became the first 100% solar-powered California vineyard. And while we highly recommend the Californian wines (cutting down on the transportation used to get the wine to your table), if you're looking for imported organic, check out Organic Vintners and the Organic Wine Company. One winery to check out down under (i.e. in Australia) is Elgo Estate which is wind-powered!
Here's where you can really go local. Microbreweries are a great option to cut down the distance from production to cup. Check out BeerTown.org for a directory on local breweries. New Belgium (makers of Fat Tire, among others) became the first brewery in the US to be powered by wind, back in 1998, and they've continued to embrace environmental programs since then. Organic is another good choice. Wolavers and Butte Creek offer organic pale ales, IPAs, porters, stouts, etc. Butte Creek also brews and bottles an organic yerba mate beer with Mateveza (a few of us at Huddler had the opportunity to try the beer and meet its creator, Jim. Our conclusion: an awesome experimental beer with a nice little energy kick). Anheuser-Busch couldn't be left out of the organic beer surge. The nation's largest beer company now offers Wild Hop and Stone Mill as their organic options. Anderson Valley Brewing Company in Boonville, CA generates 125 kWh above its brewery. Sierra Nevada is almost off grid with a combination of fuel cells and solar panels (not to mention, they have put in great effort around recycling, heat recovery, carbon-dioxide recovery, water conservation, and energy efficiency). Bison Brewing is also certified organic beer from Berkeley, CA.
Vodka, whiskey, rum, choose your poison but make sure it's organic. For vodka, there's Square One which says it is the first certified organic 100% American rye vodka (not to mention, the distilleries that make Square One get 25% of their energy from wind-generated sources). Two other great organic vodkas are Vodka 14 and Sunshine Vodka. Rain Vodka is made from organic grains AND an organic yeast strain. Last but not least, there's Liquid Ice made from 5 grains in Idaho. If you're looking for organic whiskey, you'll find two from Scotland. The Da Mhile Single Grain Scotch whisky is made by Springbank Distillery and Highland Harvest whisky fight for the title of world's first organic version. For that perfect gin and tonic, try Juniper Green made from organic juniper berries, coriander, angelica root, and savory. And if your choice is rum, don't think just about organic, think fair-trade. Papagayo Spiced Rum is organic and its production benefits 800 family-based sugar cane farms. Another 800 or so Paraguyan farmers produce Utkins White Rum under fair trade conditions and yet others make Matraga Organic White Rum in Brazil. VeeV is a spirit made from acai berries. Now what is acai you ask? It's a superfood full of andioxidants. The berries are sustainably havested, $1 from every bottle goes to protect the Amazon, and the company is certified carbon neutral.
If you don't drink (or if you happen to be designated driver for the night), try organic sodas like Blue Sky, Santa Cruz Organic, Maine Root, and Whole Earth Foods. For a coffee soda (that's organic and fair-trade), check out JavaPop. Organic juices are another great option. Santa Cruz Organic and R.W. Knudsen have a wide variety. And if all else fails, there's always water (as long as it's not bottled).