More Than A Pub – Community, Carbon Reduction and Covid-19

More Than A Pub – Community, Carbon Reduction and Covid-19

The Plas Kynaston Canal Group (PKCG) is a longstanding member of Cynnal Cymru. The group meets regularly in the Holy Bush Inn that stands on a central position in the village of Cefn Mawr, Wrexham.

Dave Metcalfe, one of the founders of the PKCG, led a campaign to save the Holly Bush from demolition. His company bought the pub and it is now run as a free house and community resource. As well as the bar and lounge, the pub has space for community groups to meet.

Post-industrial villages like Cefn Mawr (of which there are many in Wales) have undergone enormous change that has been driven not only be the immediate contraction of employment in their area, but by wider cultural changes that have evolved over decades. Large scale retail (which is most conveniently accessed by private car), online shopping, and the growth of internet services have led to an atomisation of communities: families eat, drink and access entertainment alone. The great communal experience that created and defined these villages has been replaced. The villages themselves have become hollowed out dormitories for workers who travel into the nearest city. Pubs like the Holly Bush are now sadly the exception.

Dave Metcalfe however has a vision. He believes that our industrial villages should and can revive and that in doing so, they would be physical manifestations of the vision described in the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. Will the experience of lockdown, brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, cause people to re-evaluate their local services? We are getting anecdotal evidence that affirms this through our delivery of Carbon Literacy training. People’s worlds have been forced to shrink by the virus but many are reporting a new found joy and convenience in the use of local assets such as green space and food shops.

As we emerge from lockdown however, we risk losing this. Even as we urgently restart the economy however, Dave’s vision becomes more pertinent than before. He points out that thousands of tons of CO2 could be saved every year simply by getting people back in their local, drinking out of pint glasses instead of buying it from the supermarkets in cans and bottles.

“A truly green approach would be to get people back in their local, drinking beer from glasses that are simply washed and refilled from barrels refilled by the breweries, no waste and no unnecessary CO2.”

Thousands of tons of glass and aluminium are used every year in the manufacture of drinks for the off-licence market. These products are then transported and presented for sale. What is the carbon footprint of all this? Greenhouse gasses are subsequently produced in the recycling of the empty drinks containers while some are lost forever to landfill.  Furthermore, with the correct soda machines installed, big savings can be made on plastics as no plastic bottles would be required for soft drinks. We know that some cafes around Wales have removed plastic bottled soft drinks from their menus.

On the other hand, pubs need to be heated and lighted and the drinks kept chilled. There is nothing to stop a landlord however from using a green tariff or even on-site renewables to meet the pub’s energy demand.

We think Dave has a point here and would like to investigate further. We know that the international drinks industry takes their carbon footprint seriously and is engaged in efforts to reduce emissions and other harmful environmental impacts. See the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable as an example – BIER

Mike Berners-Lee (author of “How Bad Are Bananas – the Carbon Footprint of Everything”) as calculated the carbon footprint of your favourite pint as follows;

 

The carbon footprint of a pint of beer:

300g CO2e: locally brewed cask ale at the pub

500g CO2e: local bottled beer from a shop or foreign beer in a pub

900g CO2e: bottled beer from the shop, extensively transported

 

You can read more about this in Mike’s Guardian blog here.

 

As Dave says himself, “A truly green approach would be to get people back in their local, drinking beer from glasses that are simply washed and refilled from barrels refilled by the breweries, no waste and no unnecessary CO2.” Monitored by their friends and the pub staff, perhaps they would drink less than when pouring their own measures at home. The social interaction would build community as it used to before Covid-19 and the atomisation of society. It is a long-established argument of sustainability that small is beautiful and local is better. To make this cultural shift happen however, perhaps we need to restrict sales of alcohol in supermarkets and invest in our villages and town centres. Much to think about and much to discuss….