Al Gore and Leonardo DiCaprio have done a pretty good job of guilting America into caring about the earth and environment, despite the younger generations’ natural preference of lazy, pantsless Netflix binges over recycling tires.

But, what if saving the environment were as simple as drinking craft beer? You don’t even have to wear pants while drinking it.

A small-batch brewery in Southern California has found a surprisingly obvious way to recycle water and help Californians combat both the crippling drought and the widespread agricultural devastation that’s resulted because of it, and it’s called “using leftover beer water plants.” You can help by getting as shit-housed as possible on craft beer as often as possible, thus increasing the demand for beer and therefore the amount of wastewater put out during the brewing process.

By utilizing their brewery’s wastewater as gardening water, the owners of brewLAB in Carpinteria, CA, have churned out an impressive yield of vegetables and fruits, saving an average of 750 gallons of water per month.

Because brewLAB is an artisanal nanobrewery (focuses on making small-batch beers with organic and experimental ingredients), their process may differ from other larger breweries. But all breweries have one thing in common: the process of heat exchange.

Wort, or pre-fermented beer, and cool water is put in a heat exchanger to cool off the bubbling hot wort. Science is confusing, but basically, the boiling wort goes through a heat exchanger and comes out room-temperature, while the room-temperature hose water goes through the heat exchanger and comes out slightly heated.

There is nothing particularly special about the leftover, slightly-heated water. The wort heads off to fermentation, ready to become beer, but the rest of the water used for heat exchange typically goes down the drain.

Wanting to cut down on water usage and costs, brewLAB started pouring the leftover water from the heat exchanger into drums and using it to water co-founder and brewer Steve Jarmie’s home garden. The results? An urban garden with more produce variety than a farmer’s market.

According to Jarmie, his half-acre lot has a pretty standard garden with a good collection of fruit trees. The waste water from the brewery, roughly 150-200 gallons per week, is used to water the garden’s avocado, orange, apple, pear, peach, and banana trees.

“This summer alone the garden produced several hundred pounds of food in tomatoes, squash, peppers, onions, spinach, kale, herbs, and more,” Jarmie says.

Jarmie's garden before the beer water.

Jarmie's garden before the beer water.

Jarmie's garden after a proper soaking in beer water.

A garden that plentiful is nearly unheard of in SoCal, now in its fourth year of a devastating drought. While Californians suck up what little remaining groundwater we have, no one is considering using wastewater from breweries … but why? To be honest, there’s more than enough of it.

Angel City Brewery is a large brewery in downtown L.A. On average, they put out 5,000 barrels a year, or 225,000 gallons of delicious craft beer. According to an employee of Angel City, they average eight gallons of wastewater per every one gallon of beer. That’s a whopping 1.8 million gallons of wastewater annually. Although Angel City is extremely environmentally conscious and try their best to have better yields of beer to wastewater, they currently have no use for those nearly 2 million gallons of water.

Smog City, another brewery in LA, has an average 6-8 batches a week at 15 barrels per batch, 45 gallons per barrel. The average wastewater to beer gallon ration is 10:1, so assuming the average is true of Smog City, they put out 4,050 gallons of beer and 40,500 gallons of wastewater a week. An employee from Smog City said they do their best to reclaim and reuse their water, but some does go to waste. Even if that “some” is half, that’s still an annual amount of 1,053,000 gallons of water that could be recycled and put to use outside of the brewery.

According to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the city uses 13.279 billion gallons a month, and only 4 percent of that gets recycled. Even though all the breweries in L.A. could not supply the city with enough recycled wastewater to save the city, they could certainly cause a dent in water usage for urban farms and gardens — and bump up that 4 percent recycled water stat.

In fact, this is something major commercial brewers like MillerCoors (currently the nation’s second largest) have been focusing attention on. From 2011 to 2013, MillerCoors saved more than 1.1 billion gallons of water as a result of its reductions in energy usage. The brewer also made an effort to reduce water use in its agricultural supply chain by implementing new farming techniques that saved water while still producing quality barley. Using these improved agricultural techniques, the farm has saved more than 429.5 million gallons of water over the past three years.  The brewer created a program at the MillerCoors Farm in Colorado’s San Luis Valley, where they test water-saving techniques and share best practices with barley growers.

Yet although large breweries like MillerCoors have made strides in conserving water in the stages before fermentation, there’s been no noticeable effort to reuse it afterwards. That’s something Big Beer could definitely learn from craft brewers.

So, drink a craft beer, and know that your beer’s wastewater could potentially save the entire planet.

Well, it could. If Los Angeles figured out their shit.