Green Building and Beer

As I write this it is bitter cold out with the by now customary 1/4″ of stingy snow on the roads. Not bad enough to stay home but bad enough to enable one to wrap a car around a tree. Times like this make one long for the warm breezes of summer, sitting in the shade sipping on a cold beer.

What, you may reasonably ask, does beer drinking have to do with green building? Admittedly not much, at least not at first glance, but bear with me.

Builders work hard; the challenges of permitting, clients, budgets, the weather, the crew, the architect, the mason, etc. create a situation wherein a slightly alcoholic, malt-ish type beverage is just the ticket.

It has been my completely unscientific observation that green builders like good beer (GB). By GB, I mean good ol’ local beer. Green builders like a Wedge Iron Rail IPA or a Pisgah Pale; they like a Wicked Zealot or perhaps a Lookout Amber (try it!).

Non-green builders may like good beer; it has been my unscientific observation, however, that they are more likely to drink bland, tasteless, chemically smelling commodity swill (which is fine if you’re into tasteless swill – no judgement there) assembled and marketed by the national conglomerates.

I hesitate to grace what they do with the glorious title of brewing – to do so would disparage real brewers. It’s good that most folks like bland beer; it leaves  more of the good stuff for the rest of us.

Besides working mostly outdoors, green builders like to spend time outdoors. Another unscientific observation is that green builders, their crews, and their subcontractors like to hike and climb and paddle and otherwise get close to this beautiful place they are working so hard to protect.

Maybe conventional builders like these things as well – I honestly don’t know.

Here’s what I do know.

Of all the beer containers presented as litter in the outdoors, an overwhelming majority are Bud Light (Blight) cans. Can we surmise that conventional builders litter more than green builders? The science is not in yet but there is clearly something extremely disturbing going on in the Bud Light drinking community.

I looked up beer sales by brand. While the data is a bit confusing, it is clear that Bud light sales are the highest.

Bud Light sales are approximately 5 and a half million barrels per year; that’s a lot of bad beer, people.

The Number Two (ha) and Number Three sellers are Budweiser and Coors Light. They each clock in at over 2 million barrels per year.

So, if ten million barrels of crappy beer (CB) are sold per year then over half is Bud Light.

It seems reasonable to assume that more than ten million barrels of CB are sold per year, so let’s be generous and speculate that Bud Light represents approximately 40 percent of CB sales per year.

What then accounts for the irrefutable fact that over 90 percent of all prepackaged beverage container litter (not just CB) is of the dreaded blue Bud Light can?

What is it in the psyche of the Bud Light drinker, as opposed to all other consumers of prepackaged beverages, that compels them to enjoy their refreshment in the beauty of the backwoods and then throw the container on the ground?

Inquiring minds want to know!

If we can understand what makes a Bud Light drinker litter, we may have a better understanding of other undesirable environmental behaviors. We may also gain insight into our target clientele and how to expand the green building market share.

We can design and and build a sustainable built environment. We can research ways to create a restorative economy. We can install photovoltaics until the cows come home. Unless and until we begin to positively effect destructive behavior we are pushing a very large rock up a very steep hill.

Here’s the sort of behavior we need to understand:

* What, specifically, compels a would-be homeowner to purchase a GreenBuilt NC home, even if the GreenBuilt home is a few shekels more than conventional?

* What compels a homeowner to change the HVAC filters, turn down the thermostat, and wash full loads of laundry and dishes (and/or use a clothesline)?

* Conversely, what compels a Bud light drinker to throw his empty container on the ground?

Here are a few theories on the last point.

Theory 1. The CB was so bad the drinker threw the container down in disgust? Multiple cans challenge this theory.

Theory 2. The lack of discerning judgement that lead to the CB purchase in the first place is reflected in the choice to litter the container.

Theory 3. There is some substance in the Blight that impedes the normal functioning of the brain normally given to not littering.

Neither theory 1 or 2 would explain the dis-proportionality of Bud Light litter compared to other CB. Utilizing the most stringent scientific method available to us, then, we must assume that there is something in the beverage itself. If we can identify that compound, we could inoculate CB drinkers against litter and, conceivably, induce folks to purchase GreenBuilt homes.

While I don’t have the exact figure, it’s worth noting that very little prepackaged beverage container litter is of the microbrew variety.  I heard somewhere that micro brewed beer accounts for less than 5 percent of all beer sales.

I can’t count the number of Bud Light cans I’ve seen on our trails and riversides, but I can count the number of microbrew containers I’ve come across on one hand — wait, make that one finger!

If you know a Bud Light drinker, can you surmise any other characteristic that distinguishes him or her from other enjoyers of CB and GB? I know one or two CB drinkers and they seem to be normal, red-blooded, nacho-eating Americans, at least on the surface. They don’t curse or spit anymore than other people I know. Their hygienic practices fall in line with accepted norms; most of their teeth are still intact. For the record, I’ve never seen them litter … what is going on here?

Is there a secret society of Blight litterbugs? Do they have a secret handshake? Do they meet up in the dark to torture small rodents and practice their unsociable habit(s)?

I plan to enjoy a GB now and then; next time you do the same ponder the dilemma laid before you,”What’s up with Bud Light drinkers?”


Steve Farrell