8 ways the beer you drink can help the environment

Earlier this year, our Emerging Leaders Board provided a unique opportunity for citizens of Beervana to raise their carbon-consciousness: Migration Brewing, in collaboration with Portland State University, launched Little Foot Red Ale, “a medium bodied red ale with citrus aromatics and a spicy, dry finish.” With this rosy brew, Migration Brewing sought to take something we all love – the Oregon microbrew – and tweak its production and distribution to reduce carbon footprint and improve environmental performance.

Migration Brewing isn’t alone in their dedication to climate health. A growing number of American breweries have joined the fight against climate change by signing on to a national Climate Declaration calling for strong climate and energy policies. Like always, Oregon is at the lead of the pack. Oregon breweries make up one-third of declaration signers, with seven Oregon breweries so far having made a commitment to a cleaner climate. So, if you seek to be green this St. Patrick’s Day weekend (no pun intended, well, maybe a little), here are 8 examples of how breweries are innovating to reduce their environmental impact – and give us great tasting beer at the same time.

1. Using renewable energy. Oregon’s very own Deschutes Brewery and Widmer Brothers all using 100% renewable energy to generate electricity. Nationally, Allagash Brewery, Brewery Vivant, Odell Brewing, Redhook and New Belgium Brewing are going 100% renewable too. Oregon’s Ninkasi Brewing has installed on-site solar arrays; Hawaii’s Kona Brewing Company gets 50% of its electricity with roof-top solar.

OdellOdell Brewing has installed rooftop solar panels that generate renewable energy for their brewing process.

2. Cutting energy use by recycling steam. Washington State’s Fremont Brewing, as well as Odell Brewing (based in Colorado) are using steam from the brewing process to heat the next brew and lower their carbon footprints.

3. Sourcing local, organic ingredients. Breweries like Portland’s Hopworks are opting for local, organic ingredients when crafting their brews. Organic agriculture doesn’t rely on synthetic fertilizer, a contributor to the carbon footprint of hops and barley production.

4. Installing efficient lighting. Oregon’s Widmer Brothers Brewing has installed high-efficiency lighting systems with occupancy and daylight sensors to reduce their energy use.

WidmerEfficient T5 lighting systems with occupant and daylight sensors were recently installed at the Widmer Brothers Brewery. The brewery has reduced its energy use by 12% in 2014, to just 9.2 kWhs per barrel of beer produced. Photo credit: Widmer Brothers Brewing.

5. Capturing methane. New Belgium Brewery is capturing methane – which is a potent greenhouse gas if released as waste – and using it to generate electricity.

NewBelgiumNew Belgium Brewing’s wastewater treatment bubble captures methane, the potent greenhouse gas produced from the treatment process, which is then used to provide 15% of the brewery’s electricity needs. Photo credit: New Belgium Brewery.

6. Saving water. Beer’s main ingredient is clean fresh water. Breweries are increasing their water efficiency, especially in areas struggling with drought. Oregon’s Hopworks Urban Brewery recently installed a “Cleaning In Place” system, which allows them to conserve five times the amount of water when cleaning fermentation tanks while also saving energy and cleaner.

7. Cutting transportation emissions. Many breweries are cutting their transportation footprints by reducing packaging and choosing cans, which lighten the load. Guinness has partnered with the US EPA Smartways program that works with transportation carriers to reduce carbon emissions through better logistics.

8. Reusing spent grain. Breweries like The Alchemist are partnering with local farmers to reuse the spent grain from the brewing process as compost or to feed livestock. Our very own Ninkasi utilizes locally-grown hops.

AlchemistThe Alchemist lead brewer Jim Conroy, 40, of Waterbury, VT moves a barrel of mash used to make Heady Topper. Photo credit: The Boston Globe.

We hope you enjoy this St. Patrick’s Day weekend; remember to drink responsibly – and consciously!

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