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Breweries Are Teaching All Industries the Art of Sustainability

While the countdown is in full swing for St. Patrick’s Day Saturday and everything associated with the world’s largest Irish fest – green hair, green clothing, and yes, green beer – the folks here at Green Business Bureau wanted to check in with the craft brew scene to see what’s happening in the industry around sustainability. To say we were impressed would be an understatement.

If you think about what goes into making many people’s favorite thirst quencher, it takes tons of fresh water, yeast, barley, hops, oats, and whatever else the brew master dreams up based on the type, style, and recipe of the beer that’s being produced. That, however, is the easy part. Brewing takes time, huge amounts of energy, and what you’re left with at the end of the process besides the finished product in a can or bottle, is a large quantity of byproduct and waste. While that waste would traditionally be found somewhere in a landfill or downstream from a brewing facility, today’s brewers are acutely aware of the challenges and issues facing the industry. That’s why are making strides to correct the ills of the prior generations and the massive breweries that have controlled the industry for decades.

Here are some ways breweries are focusing on green initiatives that positively impact their businesses and the planet, and that companies in every industry can learn from:

Reducing Waste Water

It’s impossible to produce beer without water, and Full Sail Brewing Company has taken steps to reduce the amount of water they are using annually. In fact, due to major improvements in their production process, the brewery has been able to reduce their water consumption by 4.1 million gallons a year! The brewery accomplished this by using a meura mesh filter that works to minimize water usage and maximize the malt’s extract potential, as well as by using a hot water recovery system to reuse water. They also run a voluntary treatment plant that reduces the load to the municipal treatment plant and recycles biosolids. While not every business model uses water as a production input, every company does use water in some way. Looking for ways to reduce water usage can be as easy as installing water-efficient taps, switching to energy efficient appliances in break rooms and asking employees to be aware of their water use in the workplace.

Eliminating Solid Waste

Like most businesses that make a tangible product, the production of beer results in waste in one form or another. Some breweries are taking this on as a challenge and looking for ways to become zero waste facilities. New Belgium Brewing Company, with locations in Colorado and North Carolina, has made this a goal for its production to be as close to zero waste as possible. In 2016, New Belgium found a way to compost an organic material that was collected at their process water treatment plant, resulting in a large reduction in waste sent to landfills. Today, the brewery is diverting 99.9% of their waste away from landfills and continues to look for ways to divert, reuse and eliminate waste. Many larger breweries are also joining the waste reduction movement, which can have a big impact on the overall volume of waste sent to landfills. MillerCoors, for example, has made a commitment to be zero waste by 2025 and and landfill free by 2020. The company currently reuses or recycles close to 100 percent of brewery waste, turning it into energy, compost and soil conditioner, and providing other usable waste to local companies that can use it for their own production purposes. Businesses outside the brewing world can follow in beer producers footsteps by taking a look at their own facilities, production lines and offices, and identifying areas for waste reduction.

More Efficient Energy Consumption

Looking for smart ways to save on energy costs and usage is an eco-friendly initiative that impacts every industry. While the reduction of waste water and the diversion of solid waste from landfills are two priorities high on the list of craft brewers, solar energy is making a big push into the space, as is LEED certification. Breweries have a unique position when it comes to finding new ways to save on energy because they often have large facilities that are perfect for installing solar panels. Rock Art Brewery in Vermont is one such location that is turning to the sun to produce its beer. Through a project launched with Suncommon, Rock Art Brewery is now able to run 100% powered by solar electricity! This type of program offers businesses a new marketing avenue, while also focusing on using a resource that saves money and energy. Businesses can look into ways to tap into the power of the sun by seeing if solar installation or even solar sharing is a possibility where their company is located.

Using Available Resources

While many sustainable efforts undertaken by beer producers have to do with the way the beer is made, there are also other ways these breweries are taking on sustainability. One such example comes from Stone Brewing in San Diego – the ninth largest craft brewer in the United States. Stone Brewing has turned it’s Escondido, CA location into an environmentally friendly space to welcome beer lovers. Stone Brewing offers beer and food at their beer gardens, focusing on offering locally grown, small-farm organic produce. In fact, they have become the largest restaurant purchaser of these types of products in San Diego! From the landscaping, built within a flood retention basin and using second-hand plants, to the building’s focus on using reclaimed materials, the brewery serves as an example of the green efforts you can make when you have a physical location to focus on creating or updating.

All of these initiatives, whether tackled singularly or altogether, are game changers for small and big breweries alike in terms of annual savings and overall impact. The initiatives that breweries are successfully implementing are programs that all places of business can learn from today. When given a choice, many prefer to support businesses that are conscientious, global citizens, making switching to more eco-friendly practices a good investment for any industry. So drink up, Patty, the beer scene has you covered – both now, and well into the future!

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Author Bio:

Kent Shanklin & Amanda Johnson
Green Business Bureau

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