Human beings love their beer. People all over the world drink well over 100 billion liters of the stuff each year, and I am most certainly one of them that drinks his fill. But did you know that besides the quality that craft breweries exemplify in their beer, many of these smaller breweries are doing the right thing when it comes to environmental sustainability as well? Between installing wind and/or solar power, heat exchangers, and massive recycling programs, these breweries are showing the big brew houses that you can in fact have happy employees, make a quality product, and have a solid profit, all with much less impact on the environment. Let’s take a look at a few…
Located in Fort Collins, CO, right up the road from me, New Belgium may just be the pinnacle of eco-friendly beer brewing. In 1999, New Belgium became the largest private consumer of wind-powered electricity, and is an employee-owned business that prides itself on its environmental stewardship, adhering to the following creeds:
1. Lovingly care for the planet that sustains us.
2. Honor natural resources by closing the loops between waste and input.
3. Minimize the environmental impact of shipping our beer.
4. Reduce our dependence on coal-fired electricity.
5. Protect our precious Rocky Mountain water resources.
6. Focus our efforts on conservation and efficiency.
7. Support innovative technology.
8. Model joyful environmentalism through our commitment to relationships, continuous improvement, and the camaraderie and cheer of beer
They take full advantage of the more than 360 days of sunshine in Fort Collins by using UV blocking windows, sun-tubes, and light shelves; they use evaporative coolers, which condition their 55,000 square foot packaging hall with no compressors; and at their public events like their philanthropic bike festival, Tour de Fat, New Belgium celebrates bicycling as a viable form of alternative transport while a solar-powered stage provides sound for the day.
Located in, well, Brooklyn, Brooklyn Brewery use wind power to get 100% of the electricity, making them the first New York City company to switch to 100% renewable energy. This saves the atmosphere from 335,000 pounds of carbon dioxide, 1,500 pounds of sulfur dioxide, and 500 pounds of nitrogen oxide that would otherwise be emitted. They also pay local farmers to pick up all their spent grain, the husks that are left over after brewing, that they can feed to their livestock.
Odell Brewing Company
Also located in Fort Collins, Odells just recently added a 76.8 kilowatt solar array atop the roof of a building expansion which will provide over 39% of their energy needs. They use a daylighting system in the warehouse which turns off the lights and illuminates the space entirely by natural light during the day, and they divert 98% of their waste from the landfill. All six pack holders are made from recycled paper (every brewery should be doing this, it’s kind of a no-brainer), and they only distribute “locally” to Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, South Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, Minnesota, and Arizona.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
In 2008, the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. completed construction on a solar project that produces over 1.4 MW of power for the brewery. Coupled with its existing 1.2 MW fuel cell plant, these energy sources provide the majority of the brewery’s electrical energy. In addition, any surplus energy is available to help supply the overloaded California power grid during peak power usage periods. Nicely done, guys! They divert 98.2% of their waste from the landfill and use spent vegetable oil from the Taproom and Restaurant to make the biodiesel
used in their long haul and local route trucks.
Steam Whistle Brewing
Steam Whistle uses only four, all natural ingredients (pure spring water, malted barley, hops and yeast), all GMO-free, to make their beer. (I gotta try some of this) They use clean, renewable power for their electricity, sourcing power from wind and low-impact hydro generators; they fuel their delivery trucks with B20 Bio Fuel; and since the year 2000, they have opted to use Enwave’s Deep Lake Water Cooling for climate control in the building instead of conventional air conditioners. This process draws icy cold water through intake pipes deep in Lake Ontario and moves it through the facilities giving off chill (prior to it traveling to Toronto household taps) and helps provide a comfortable working environment during the summer.
While a few of the big beer companies are trying to “go green”, most of them have a long way to go to significantly reduce their environmental footprint. Coors, for example, does a few things such as selling 1.5 million gallons of ethanol (a byproduct of brewing beer) to Colorado refineries where it is turned into fuel and attempting to use less materials in their packaging, but they have a long way to go to catch up to these eco-friendly craft breweries. The good news is that the more we support small, local companies that are doing the right thing, the more we will see these changes take place on a much bigger scale at places like Coors. (However, I will always prefer a solid craft beer over one from a conglomerate!)
So – do you have a favorite brewery that is doing the right thing? Let us know in the comments so we can check them out too!