...... Well kind of… unfortunately it’s not quite that simple. That said, it’s certainly true that every time we make a choice to purchase something, whether it be an investment or a refreshing beverage, our choice can have a markedly differing impact on the environment. And there is a very strong case to be made that, when you do have a drink, picking cider over the usual alternatives of beer and wine is by far the more sustainable choice.
The case for the sustainability of cider starts and finishes with the most fundamental part of the cider-making process: the orchards. Orchards are natural carbon sinks that lock carbon into the soil and trees. Compared with the production methods of other alcoholic tipples, apple picking doesn’t require any ploughing, which means safely locked up underground is exactly where the emissions stay.
Beyond this, orchards also support biodiversity, which is one of the most important aspects of the fight against climate change. You only have to compare wandering through an apple orchard to a barley crop to see for yourself the wealth of the natural habitat it supports, as well as many species that you won’t even notice.
So important is protecting and enhancing biodiversity that it was the focus of the United Nations World Environment Day earlier this year, with the shocking figure of nearly one million species facing extinction due to loss of habitats and damage to ecosystems. Quite simply, and as the great David Attenborough would say, we must rewild the world.
Cider making also comes with other environmental advantages, which range from the absence of extreme heating and cooling during the production process to the fact that most of the apples used to make cider will be grown nearby.
As with many of the things that we love, the positives are often reduced when companies grow to a certain size or try to maximize profits, with the use of pesticides and heavy machinery typically increasing. For this reason we’d always recommend locally produced natural craft ciders. And that’s without even getting started on how much better they taste.
All of this doesn’t mean that cider is perfect and there is always more than can be done. Energy use, packaging and shipping are three of the biggest carbon emitters in any consumer business and cider is no different, so for the industry to truly take the mantle of the world’s most sustainable beverage, it will need to find better answers to reducing waste and emissions in these areas as well.
In the meantime though, there is a clear frontrunner and cider is acres ahead of the alternatives. So next time you’re picking a drink don’t forget to think- if only for a second- whether your choice is the most sustainable one.
Jack Curtis and Jacques Sheehan Co-founders, Carbon Jacked