As we continue to celebrate Earth Day, we pay more attention to the way our food & drink are grown, harvested, brewed and transported. One only needs to look down the pint they are grasping to see how breweries are joining the sustainability movement. Beer is the third most consumed beverage in the world behind water and tea...and for some, the first.
Environmentally-conscientious breweries are becoming easier to find and the following two breweries have found ways to stay true to their roots – pun intended - while limiting their impact on the environment.
1.New Belgium Beer (Distribution: Western U.S.) This small-scale Colorado brewer takes a multilateral green approach. Their mission statement is "to operate a profitable company which is socially, ethically and environmentally responsible, that produces high quality beer true to Belgian brewing styles." In 1999 New Belgium became the first wind-powered brewery in the country as well as the largest private consumer of wind-powered electricity. As their website states, they abide by the following principles:
- Lovingly care for the planet that sustains us.
- Honor natural resources by closing the loops between waste and input.
- Minimize the environmental impact of shipping our beer.
- Reduce our dependence on coal-fired electricity.
- Protect our precious Rocky Mountain water resources.
- Focus our efforts on conservation and efficiency.
- Support innovative technology.
- Model joyful environmentalism through our commitment to relationships, continuous improvement, and the camaraderie and cheer of beer
The facilities use solar and compressed florescent lighting. Shelving and other building materials are made from trees killed by invasive beetle species rather than virgin wood.
With bio-diesel trucks to transport their beer, green building design and efficient brew kettles, this company effectively demonstrates how to operate with as little a footprint as possible. They even brew organic beer, Mothership Wit Organic Wheat Beer. Brewing organic means you brew beer that is free from chemical residues and GMOs. Organic hops production in the U.S. is finding a niche among the growing number of microbreweries. Over the years, the availabilty of organically grown hops has grown considerably.
The recipe for the brewery’s first beer, Fat Tire, came out of the owner’s bicycle trip through Belgium. The company’s commitment to sustainability is symbolized in the bicycle. They produce the Tour de Fat traveling bike festival, described on their website as a “costumed celebration of human-powered transportation” and Team Wonderbike, a bicycle commuter advocacy program, demonstrating that their love of bikes is more than just a symbol of their commitment to the environment.
As members of 1% for the Planet, they will donated $475,000 to environmental non-profits in 2008. New Belgium also supports innovative technology by offering their land and resources to assist companies such as Solix, a company working on processing bio-diesel from algae, in their research work.
2. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company (Distribution: U.S.)
Another excellent model for how well sustainability works in practice is Sierra Nevada, the 10th largest brewery in the United States. Sierra Nevada, based in Chico, California, uses green suppliers whenever possible. It buys materials that are biodegradable and recyclable. These include malt, yeast, hops, water, CO2, glass, pallets, cardboard, stretch wrap, and office paper. Sierra Nevada uses fuel cell technology to power their brewing and has won California’s highest award for waste reduction. Providing the company a highly efficient energy source, it has almost no environment footprint. Their website states that in 2006, they diverted 97% of their total waste from landfills through a combination of waste reduction and creative recycling. Cheers to that! Sierra Nevada also recovers both steam heat and carbon dioxide for reuse in the facility. Like the other eco-minded breweries, Sierra Nevada treats and reclaims its wastewater and sends its spent mash to local farms.
Combined with its use of fuel cells, the company produces enough of its own energy to help the state of California's overloaded power grid. Every building that can hold solar panels does, in order to account for the 1.9 MW system they have in place. They are neck and neck with Google in terms of who has the larger, privately-owned photovoltaic system in California. Used vegetable oil from the taproom and brewery restaurant are turned into bio-diesel on site and then used to fuel the company's long-haul and local-route trucks. The company also uses heat recovery and carbon dioxide recovery. CO2 gases created during the fermenting process are used later for bottling and dispensing. Sierra Nevada continues to update their equipment to make it more energy efficient and treats its own waste water, using the methane created to fuel its broilers. In addition to the use of bio-diesel, the company uses a hybrid truck for routes in Chico and built a rail-car unloading facility by its plant to make the transportation of beer into Canada even greener.
Cheers to that!