That’s the message coming from some of America’s most popular breweries, which are making sustainable practices the industry standard. For the beer industry, “Reduce, Re-use, Recycle” isn’t just a convenient mantra or well-rehearsed platitude, it’s gospel. Many breweries are finding creative ways to reduce energy and raw material inputs, re-use water, and recycle waste outputs. Breweries are leaving no stone unturned, no avenue unexplored, to make their systems and processes more sustainable.
In honor of American Craft Beer Week (May 16-22), here’s a look at some of the breweries leading the charge in sustainability.
Chico, California’s Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. was named EPA’s 2010 Green Business Of the Year. Boasting one of the largest privately owned solar installations in the country, Sierra Nevada has been able to reduce energy consumption while increasing production. Their facilities employ automated energy monitoring systems to distribute energy efficiently, heat recovery systems to minimize energy waste, and biogas recovery systems to help offset natural gas consumption. By the end of 2011, the brewery hopes to complete a closed-loop water system that will provide water for local crops and reduce demands on local aquifers. Sierra Nevada has also been able to divert 99.6% of its solid waste from landfills through recovery and recycling programs. For nearly 30 years Sierra Nevada has placed sustainability and environmental consciousness at the forefront of its operations.
Long Trail Brewing Co. is one of Vermont’s most progressive and forward-thinking breweries. Named after Vermont’s Long Trail, a hiking trail that snakes through the state’s Green Mountains, the brewery has shown that breweries can pursue sustainability by partnering with the local community. Long Trail supplies spent mash, a byproduct of the brewing process, to local dairy farmers as cattle feed in place of soybean or corn-based feeds that can cost over 10 times as much. Long Trail uses one-third the amount of water as the industry standard brewing process by employing a heat recovery system that converts steam into water for re-use. This process saves 1,100 gallons of propane per month and eliminates the release of smoky water vapor from the facility.
New Belgium Brewing Co. of Fort Collins, Colorado embraces sustainability and corporate responsibility like few other breweries. For New Belgium, social, ethical, and environmental responsibility are as important to the company’s operations as profitability. After one year of employment, this employee-owned business gives employees a new cruiser bicycle as a reward for their service. Since 1999 New Belgium’s facilities have operated on 100% wind power. The employee-owners approved the move to wind despite having to tap into their employee bonus pool to do so. More recently, New Belgium has partnered with the City Of Fort Collins, Colorado State University, and local energy companies to implement FortZED, a long-term vision for a zero-energy district in downtown Fort Collins. For New Belgium Brewing, business is as much about improving the local community as it is about making fantastic beer.
Sustainability isn’t just for micro-brews.
MillerCoors is pursuing a goal of zero-waste. In 2009, two MillerCoors breweries were able to meet their zero-waste goal, and the company was able to reduce its total waste by 20%. MillerCoors is placing an emphasis on purchasing renewable energy and reconfiguring its transportation fleet to make beer distribution more energy efficient and cost-effective. The mega-brewer is also working with hop farmers to reduce water use and recycle spent mash into cattle feed. Because of the company’s scale, sustainability practices implemented by MillerCoors can have a greater impact than similar steps taken by smaller brewers.
Both large and small breweries have had success implementing sustainable practices into their operations. Sustainability in the beer industry isn’t a niche or trite undertaking – it’s an essential component of business. There’s a synergy between profitability and sustainability – a good beer is an environmentally and socially conscious beer. So, as you knock back a few in celebration of American Craft Beer Week, you can drink knowing your suds are more than satisfying, they’re sustainable.
Check back on Wednesday for a review of TOP 10 organic beers that will have you celebrating sustainable beers all year long!
To learn more about sustainability efforts at these breweries, check out these additional links:
1. Sierra Nevada http://www.mutineermagazine.com/blog/2010/12/sierra-nevada-brewing-co-named-green-business-of-the-year-by-epa/
2. Sierra Nevada Sustainability Report http://www.sierranevada.com/environment/images/2010SierraNevadaSustainabilityReport.pdf
3. Long Trail Brewing Process http://www.ecobrew.net/
4. New Belgium http://www.newbelgium.com/culture/alternatively_empowered/sustainable-business-story/people.aspx
5. New Belgium http://www.terrain.org/articles/9/wann.htm
5. MillerCoors http://www.mnn.com/money/sustainable-business-practices/blogs/millercoors-releases-2010-sustainability-report