8 things every brewery should do to be more conservation-minded

5. Recycle and cut waste where you can

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In 2016, Summit Brewing worked with Eureka Recycling to make their annual Backyard Bash a zero-waste event // Photo by Kevin Kramer, The Growler

Cutting waste can mean capturing and reusing the byproducts of the brewing process, as well as recycling packaging waste from the brewhouse. One common practice for most breweries is to give spent grain to local farmers to be used as feed for cows and pigs. Fitger’s Brewhouse uses their spent grains to raise the cattle they’ll eventually source for the restaurant.

Events can easily cause excess waste, but places like Summit and Sociable Cider Werks partner with the Minnesota nonprofit Eureka Recycling to host zero-waste bashes. The choice to use biodegradable materials and implement an everyday recycling program outside of events is common for many breweries around the state.

6. Be conscious of how packaging impacts your sustainability

One downside of a brewery growing and shipping more beer is the difficulty of keeping a low carbon footprint. Many breweries across the country have shifted to cans since they are easily recyclable, easier to ship, and are 30 percent lighter than bottles. However, there’s never been a comprehensive environmental impact study on the full lifecycle of bottles and cans, from mining of materials, manufacturing, and distribution, to the end consumer, to definitively say which format is more sustainable.

Related post: Florida brewery creates edible six-pack rings to protect marine wildlife

Draft beer from a brewery’s taproom in reusable containers, whether it be a pint glass or a growler, is the most sustainable way to serve beer. It’s just one of the reasons why Brennan Greene of Birch’s on the Lake favors the brewpub model. But breweries that package their beer can still do their part by doing everything they can to make sure their cans and bottles end up in the same place—the recycling bin.

7. Maximize efficient ingredient use

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Mash filters, like the one in use at Modist Brewing, use grain more efficiently than traditional mash tuns // Photo by Aaron Davidson

Getting the most out of the raw ingredients that go into the brewing process can significantly improve a brewery’s long term efficiency and sustainability. This can include installing hop torpedoes, centrifuges, and mash filters, but it could also mean doing more research on the ingredients used. Ingredient efficiency is a great idea, as it cuts supply cost and uses less raw ingredients.

8. Landscaping and facilities planning

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Construction of Bang Brewing’s rain gardens // Photo courtesy of Alchemy Architects

Whether a brewery planned for sustainability before opening by creating rain gardens and installing wind turbines, or implements measures like motion sensor lights and solar panels later on, there are myriad ways to make a facility more sustainable.

Bang Brewing is a notable example of sustainable brewery design. “Our goal when we broke ground was that all aspects of our 1/6-acre facility be thoughtful, intentional, multi-functional, and as environmentally sustainable as possible,” co-owner Sandy Boss-Febbo says. They get their energy from Minnesota wind farms through Xcel Energy’s Windsource program, and their new beer garden is surrounded by fully permeable rain gardens planted with native prairie plants and wildflowers.

Related post: Local architects add one-of-a-kind patio to one of Minnesota’s most unique taprooms

It’s not possible for every brewery to create such sustainable facilities though. “I think what scares especially new breweries away from sustainability by far is the time and monetary cost of sustainability,” Jesse Hauf of 10K Brewing says. He recommends everyone start simple and implement a plan with gradual goals. “We might not be the most sustainable brewery, but if every brewery took just a couple small steps towards sustainability, we can make an impact in the industry as a whole.”

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