Top 5 Tips for Increasing Brewery Sustainability

Focusing on these key areas will get you maximum impact fast.

By Fawn Ward  |  September 13, 2016

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Sustainability is a priority for the craft beverage industry. Many of the original craft beer pioneers have developed impressive systems for reducing reliance on nonrenewable resources. While they have helped pave the way, some of their methods are not as accessible to the smaller breweries, cideries, wineries or distilleries. Funding, labor, infrastructure, time and resources are often limiting factors. Fortunately, there are real benefits that can come from small changes.

bru gear jacketed fermenter

1. Insulation 

Whether in the Yukon or the Yucatan, temperature management is key to maintaining a successful production facility or tasting room. The EPA estimates that a whopping 30% of commercial buildings’ total energy consumption is inefficient or even unnecessary. Businesses that own their buildings may have an advantage for easy improvements, but even renters can modify insulation to help keep heat or cold at bay. All the standard areas should be scrutinized: doorways, windows, vents. Because many startups begin with an industrial and oversized space, thoroughly insulating all pipes, valves and tanks can help by reducing energy loss and making production simpler. For quotes on a climate control system from one of our suppliers, click here

2. Lighting

Huge amounts of energy can be saved by a few lighting changes. Installing automatically-adjusting lights or lights with dimmer switches can help reduce unnecessary electricity use. LEDs can help, too: they use 20-30% of the energy a traditional incandescent light does, and last up to 25 times longer. Many areas of production facilities need to be continuously brightly lit, but certain spaces such as walk-in coolers, storage closets and restrooms, may be better off with lights on timers.  Even production spaces and tasting rooms even in gloomy climates can consider adding skylights to take advantage of all available natural lighting.

3. Solid Waste

Craft beverage facilities create a lot of solid waste, some of which has potential further use. Spent grain, fruit pulp and pomace can be used for livestock or agricultural endeavors, converted to compost, or other methods of recycling that avoids ending up in a landfill. From a human resources perspective, improving equipment and employee skills also reduces waste in many areas. For example, packaging teams that understand how to use their machinery can help minimize improperly filled or labeled containers. To learn more about solid waste and wastewater management techniques, click here

4. Transportation

Getting packaged products into consumers’ hands usually involves transport, though how far and how frequently varies depending upon business and location. Creating efficient delivery routes and encouraging employee carpooling are practical small measures to help business-related transit become more effective. Choosing a hybrid vehicle for sales trips could also reduce CO2 emissions by nearly 50%, and help establish a real commitment to lowering craft brewing’s carbon footprint. Using less gas also minimizes trips to the gas station and increases time spent getting product into consumer and retailer spaces. Buying base ingredients like malt or apples shouldn’t escape thought either–how many miles did they travel before being added to the tank? Venture for nearby options whenever possible.  You can search for suppliers by location here.  

5. Customer Engagement

Never underestimate customer influence and involvement. Consumer behavior is part of overall brand impact. Taking advantage of a brewery-as-platform can help consumers improve business in general. Encourage drinkers to ride their bikes by adding bike racks. Offer refillable growlers. Showcase easily distinguished compost and recycling bins. Or, further engage the community by hosting seminars or events that focus on issues of sustainability.

Tackling these issues from day one will only create better pathways for improvement. Plus, there are additional benefits to introducing a focus on sustainability early on. As business grows, customers and staff will know that everyone’s interests are at stake–an invaluable business position.

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