By Bryan Birch, Co-Founder, ZeroHero
The word “sustainability” made its way from the margins to the mainstream sometime around Al Gore’s laser pointed Oscar Winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth. Several years earlier forward thinking businesses began to explore “greener” ways of running a company. Accordingly, the triple bottom line, one of the first measures of what sustainability stood for floated around water coolers and became a guideline for the new movement. The triple bottom line, also known as people, planet and profits describes a balanced boardroom where environmental, social considerations, and solid economics survive under one roof.
In celebration of 2010 marking our third year of a greener GABF we asked a few of breweries why they’ve taken up the cause of sustainability. Thanks to Katie Wallace, New Belgium Brewing Company, Fort Collins, Colorado, Liz Melby, Harpoon Brewery, Boston, Massachusetts and Chris Cochran,Stone Brewing Co., Escondido, California for their contribution.
ZeroHero: Does “sustainability” have any unique meaning to your brewery? Is there any piece of broad spectrum of sustainability that you champion, advocate for, or try to master?
Harpoon: I don’t think there’s any “unique” meaning to sustainability for us at Harpoon, but it does have important meaning. Our focused efforts to creating more sustainable brewery really came about organically, if you will. Over the years there have been many individuals who have championed sustainable practices at the brewery by a starting recycling program, working to reduce the energy used in production, reducing and recycling waste water in the brewing process, etc.
There is not one area in particular we focus on with regard to our sustainable practices, we try to do what we can across the board—from the production side, to the office, to the warehouse, to our festivals, our sporting events, our charitable events, and so on. We also encourage our community of beer drinkers to join us in our sustainability efforts through different events we put together through our Harpoon Helps program.
Stone: We truly look at sustainability and our carbon footprint closely. We have a very large solar array on our roof that provides between 30-40% of our needs, we use waterless urinals, all our delivery trucks run on bio-diesel, we have our own waste water treatment plant and even reclaim a lot of our water for other uses here, our Bistro is the largest buyer of locally grown, small farm organic produce in the entire county of San Diego, and many elements in the Bistro & Gardens is recycled material!
ZeroHero: Is it fair to say that environmental stewardships makes you a better business, a better place to work, or produce a better product?
NBB: Absolutely. We’ve learned how intertwined everything is: the environment, economic benefits and the balanced lifestyle of our co-workers. You cannot departmentalize sustainability. Engagement of all co-workers throughout the brewery is key to our efforts. It was NBB employees who recommended we eliminate cardboard partitions from our 12-packs. Based on the company’s current level of production, that will eliminate 150 tons of cardboard and save New Belgium about $280,000 a year.
Harpoon: Yes, definitely. I can’t speak for everyone here at the brewery, but I think for the most part, Harpooners are happy and proud that the brewery continues to take steps towards sustainability. It has opened up dialogs between different departments, and has encouraged people to work together to develop ideas and implement changes. It has been good for the brewery culture.
On the business side, being green can ultimately be a big money-saver. That makes our finance department very happy!
ZeroHero: Outside of the benefits to the planet/ environment, has there been any interesting “side effects” to your company’s pursuit of environmental stewardship?
Stone: We have been recognized with several awards in the “environmental” and “sustainability” side of things which is cool. And we sure have learned a lot about waste water, solar, and similar aspects that make us more aware of the things we should be doing.
NBB: Our stewardship contributes positively to our economics and branding. The conversations with our core customers tell us that we’re profitable not in spite of our social and environmental efforts but because of them. We see it in our co-workers too; we have a lot of fun at NBB. Sustainability should be fun, and if its not fun its not sustainable. We don’t see sustainable living as a pile of sacrifices, but rather a fulfilling lifestyle.
ZeroHero: It appears that breweries adopt “green” practices quicker than other business/ industry sectors. Do you believe that’s true? And if so, why?
Harpoon: I can’t really say if craft breweries adopt green practices quicker than other industries. We’ve had some stellar examples of very successful, very sustainable, great brewers like New Belgium and Sierra Nevada. These breweries and others along the way have set a great path for craft brewers to follow, and we’re lucky for that.
The Brewers Association has also done an amazing job with sustainability at their festivals. It’s incredible to see tens of thousands of people attending events like the GABF and SAVOR, and leaving very little waste behind.
Stone: Not sure if that is true or not. But I can tell you that most small, craft breweries are run by individuals—people that care about their beers, care about their neighbors, their communities, and the world in general. They don’t have to answer to share holders or boards of directors to get the approval to adopt a certain practice, which gives them the freedom to make the right decision!
NBB: We see an emerging stewardship with many breweries. This industry is full of people following their passion. Brewing is an art, and when people conduct their life from that space they tend to draw a connection to nature.
Bryan Birch co-founded ZeroHero nearly four years ago and asks himself each day how he got so lucky to work with such great events like the GABF. ZeroHero is a Colorado company that works across the country reducing the impact of major events and festivals through zero-waste management, alternative energy and education.