Week of 11/09/2003

From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Dear EarthTalk: I’ve enjoyed organic wines, but do any companies make organic beer?
—Margaret Chadwick, Weston, CT

Given the increasing popularity of organic wine, it was perhaps inevitable that organic beer would follow. Eighty million Americans regularly drink beer, which breaks down to about 23 gallons of the beverage per person every year.

Organic beer is made from organically grown hops, malts, barleys and natural yeast, with no chemical additives or processes. Some other beers are not organic, but are brewed along environmental principles, which can mean everything from 100 percent wind power to hydroponic gardens fed by recycled wastewater. Although no specific sales figures are yet available for organic beer, the category it’s in, non-dairy beverages (including soft drinks, wine and beer), was the organic industry’s sales leader in the year ending in June 2001, with 60 percent growth and more than $200 million in sales. Although it is more expensive to produce, many organic beers are competitively priced at $5.99 or $6.99 a six-pack.

As the British Telegraph newspaper notes, "Organic beer has to pass the taste test. The finest, greenest credentials count for little if the stuff in the glass is awful." Indeed, many breweries now offer high-quality, tasty products. "I think the future of organic beer is bright," says Crayne Horton, vice president of Fish Brewing Company in Olympia, Washington, which sells Fish Tale Organic Amber in the Northwest. The largest hurdle for organic beer remains achieving national name recognition and distribution, which is the goal of ambitious brewers like California-based Wolaver"s, whose organic ales and ciders are now available in 33 states.

CONTACT: Fish Brewing, (360) 943-3650, www.fishbrewing.com; Wolaver"s, (530) 478-0492, www.wolavers.com

Dear EarthTalk: I love to play golf, but what is the sport’s impact on the environment?
—Jared Pyatt, Springfield, MO

The relationship between golf courses and the environment is not a simple one. Many golf courses are public parks that help preserve native habitats, save wildlife and get millions of people outside. But golf courses can also be elitist playgrounds, put thousands of pounds of pesticides and fertilizers into the ground, displace animals and birds, and use exorbitant amounts of water. Until the 1990s, the words "environmentally sensitive" and "conservation" were not even mentioned in the planning stages of most golf courses.

Now, most golf course architects, superintendents and executive boards are working to create an environment for players to enjoy nature without harming it. The United States Golfing Association (USGA) annually publishes the magazine Green Section, and all certified golf course superintendents must go through environmental management training.

However, the work to create a healthy relationship between golf and nature is far from over. As an environmentally conscious golfer, you can encourage the preservation of native lands, ask the local Audubon society to set up bird sanctuaries at your course, and support the courses in your area that implement environmental policies. Earth Share also gives the following tips on how to become a greener golfer: a) Support positive turf management techniques; b) Encourage alternative fertilization processes and overall reduction of chemicals; c) Be happy playing on brownish fairways in dry spells and encourage reduced water practices; d) And always replace your divots and ball marks.

CONTACT: Earth Share, (800) 875-3863, www.earthshare.com; USGA, (908) 234-2300, www.usga.org