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Drink Beer, Save the Planet

New research finds most American beer drinkers are willing to pay more for an eco-friendly brew.
Lagunitas beer on sale in Chicago, Illinois.

Lagunitas beer on sale in Chicago, Illinois.

It is notoriously difficult to get people to focus on climate change, let alone take action to help mitigate the coming catastrophe. But new research suggests Americans are willing to pay a bit more for one of their favorite indulgences if it is produced in a more Earth-friendly manner.

It seems there is a substantial market for sustainably brewed beer.

"The takeaway for the brewing industry is that it is financially feasible to introduce energy-saving practices into the brewing process," Sanya Carley, who co-authored the paper with her Indiana University colleague Lilian Yahng, said in announcing the findings. "Even if it ends up adding costs, more than half of all beer consumers are willing to absorb those extra costs."

Sorry, officer—I didn't really want that fourth beer, but I felt compelled to save the planet.

The study, in the online journal PLoS One, featured an online survey of 1,094 self-described beer drinkers. After providing demographic information, including information on their lifestyle and environmental beliefs, they indicated how much per ounce they pay for their favorite beer.

Participants were then told that many breweries are investing in equipment that helps them conserve energy or water, and/or have switched to power sources that emit fewer greenhouse gases. Finally, they were asked how much more they would be willing to pay for such a product.

"The majority of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable beer," Carley and Yahng report. Specifically, 59 percent expressed willingness to pay a little more than their current tab—on average, 1.8 cents more per ounce.

"This amounts to about 22 cents per 12-ounce bottle of beer, or $1.30 per six pack," they write.

Those willing to fork over a bit more tended to fit a particular profile—people who participate in "personal advancement through professional or educational development," and/or do volunteer work. Not surprisingly, this group also includes "those who already practice sustainable consumption behaviors" such as composting or recycling.

People who already pay more for their beer (presumably to purchase premium or locally brewed brands) are also more likely to be cool with a small price hike.

Today, of course, there are countless craft beers. Carley suggests going green—and marketing the beverage in that way—might be a good way to distinguish your product in a crowded market.

Speaking of marketing, perhaps new Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, arguably America's most vociferous champion of beer, could promote eco-friendly brews as part of an image-rehabilitation project.

And then there's Elon Musk, an innovative entrepreneur who also could use some good press. Anyone up for another round of Tesla Lager?