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The Green Life: It's March Madness! Slam-Dunk Snacks and Sips

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March 17, 2009

It's March Madness! Slam-Dunk Snacks and Sips

SMMA09_EN_02 March Madness means college basketball, which means game-watching parties, which means snacking and drinking, which means chips, soda, and maybe a beer or two. We at Sierra have done the dribbling for those of you who want to make your refreshments as earth-friendly as they are tasty. We tracked down the greenest brands, blind-tasted them, and ranked them according to our collective preferences.

Whichever flavor you go with, it’s best to buy chips and soda in larger containers to avoid the waste of single-serving packaging. And if you get inspired to shoot some hoops yourself, try Fair Trade Sports’ vegan basketball (at left); it’s made of sustainably sourced rubber.


#1 Anderson Valley Brewing Company Boont Amber Ale This “smooth” beer, produced in a solar-powered facility, is “flavorful but not overwhelming” with a “gorgeous color,” a “pleasant nuttiness,” and a “nice head.” It is, as one tester noted, a “serious beer.” SMMA09_EN_beer

#2 Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Most agreed they “could down a couple of these quite happily,” thanks to its “nice amber color”; “toasty,” “hoppy” flavor; and “sweeter aftertaste.” Sierra Nevada conserves water, uses fuel-cell power, and recycles.

#3 Organic Great Scot Pale Ale With a “nice caramel color,” some found this organic Scottish ale “strong but not too strong,” though others called it “a little too sweet.”

#4 New Belgium Brewing Company 1554 Enlightened Black Ale This “very dark” beer has “coffee and tobacco flavors” and is “smoky” and “malty with a hint of bitterness.” Though some deemed it “not impressive,” the brewery’s green practices are: It’s wind-powered and treats its own wastewater.

#5 Coopers Original Pale Ale This Aussie beer has a “cloudy look,” a “golden color,” a “light flavor”–and a controversial aftertaste. Coopers recycles, recovers energy, conserves water, and signed Australia’s Greenhouse Challenge and National Packaging Covenant.


SMMA09_EN_chips #1 Kettle Brand Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper Of the five brands we tested, Kettle was the runaway winner. The company recycles waste oil into biodiesel, uses solar and wind power, restores wetlands, and has the first LEED-gold-certified food-manufacturing plant in the United States. This flavor is “very good”; “crispy, crunchy, and a little greasy.” People liked its crinkle-cut appearance too.

#2 Kettle Brand Organic Chipotle Chili Barbeque These earned high marks for flavor and texture. Tasters called them “bold and spicy” with “good saltiness”–though a few found them “too sweet.”

#3 SunChips Original Frito-Lay, which uses solar energy at one of its plants, manufactures these “wholesome,” “very light and crispy” chips. Naysayers called them “bland” and “weird.”

#4 SunChips French Onion Mixed reviews here: Some liked the “awesome onion flavor” and thought they looked “tempting,” while others said they “taste like cardboard” and have an “unpleasant corrugated appearance.” Perhaps because Frito-Lay has saved 5 million trees by reusing and recycling shipping cartons?

#5 Kettle Brand Black Bean Testers thought these were “not crunchy enough,” “nothing special,” and “just your average tortilla chip”–though they still beat out other brands and flavors.

SMMA09_EN_soda #1 O Organics Lemon Italian Soda This “delicious” variety of Safeway’s organic brand has a “strong citrus flavor” that’s “peppy,” “perfectly tangy,” and “refreshing.” “Yum!”

#2 Virgil’s Root Beer Packaged in recycled bottles, Virgil’s is “good and frothy” with a “tasty,” “light root beer” flavor and a “buttery” texture.

#3 Reed’s Extra Ginger Brew Though some found the spicy-sweet flavor “odd,” most found it “fresh” and “light” with a “natural-tasting ginger flavor.” Reed’s supports Tree People and other nonprofits.

#4 O Organics Blood Orange Italian Soda People called this “mystery flavor” “intriguing” and “interesting” and noted its “pretty color.” A few, though, said it’s too syrupy and “tastes like a kids’ drink.”

#5 Hansen’s Mandarin Lime Natural Cane Soda Panelists appreciated the “light, fruity flavor,” though a few complained that it “tastes like medicine.” Hansen’s sodas are made with real cane sugar instead of high-fructose corn syrup.

--Avital Binshtock

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