Sustainability Series: Environment

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Sustainability Series: Environment

Sustainability, in general, is far from a new topic in business, but it’s still a fresh conversation in the craft brewing world because of the industry’s intense growth over the last several years. Not only does craft beer continue to gain share of the overall beer market (up 5% in 2017), but the increase of craft breweries in North Carolina alone is astounding; To put it in perspective, there were only 59 breweries operating in North Carolina when we opened in 2011, and as of 2017, our state is home to 257 breweries (that’s a 336% increase in seven years). Because the novelty of craft is beginning to fade, the industry is now being held to the same sustainability practice standards as industries that have been around forever.

We welcome the conversation of sustainability because we truly believe that, as responsible citizens and business owners, we should always be working towards leaving our community, economy and environment in a better place than we found it. In this three part series, we’ll cover environmental sustainability, social sustainability, and economic sustainability.

We’re kicking the series off by discussing our environmental sustainability efforts (including the challenges and opportunities), and we welcome you to ask questions! It’s always our goal to be transparent and improve our practices. According to the Brewers Association’s Sustainability Subcommittee, “environmental sustainability is the ability to use natural resources as efficiently as possible, minimize the creation of waste and pollution, and do so in a manner that can be continued indefinitely.” Because we’re in the business of manufacturing, we do require the use of resources like fuel, electricity, water, CO2, and agricultural ingredients (such as hops and grains). Since use of these resources are essential to our business, we task ourselves with being responsible stewards by minimizing the impact on our environment whenever and wherever possible.

Environmental challenges unique to breweries

As members of the Brewers Association, we ascribe to the six challenges that they have identified for breweries:

  1. Increase the usage efficiency of energy, water and other natural resources
  2. Reduce the amount and impacts of waste created and disposed
  3. Protect the long-term viability of watersheds in which we operate
  4. Identify and promote more sustainable barley and hop growing practices
  5. Identify and promote more sustainable packaging options
  6. Increase member education and engagement in sustainability related initiatives

Efforts made to reduce our environmental footprint

Over the last several years, we’ve been working to reduce our environmental impact specifically within the following three categories.

  • Efforts to improve our operations:
    • Reduce water usage – The industry average of water usage per gallon of beer produced (kegged/canned) is around 7 gallons of water. In 2016 (our first calendar year at N. Tryon location) we beat that average by nearly a full gallon, coming in at 6.06 gallons of water to beer. In 2017 we did even better and dropped a full 1/2 gallon to 5.66 gallons of water per finished beer! Keep in mind that this includes ALL of our water usage: brewing, cleaning and even tap room use.
      We recapture most of our cleaning fluids for both the brewhouse and the the cellar in our CIP systems we had integrated. This heavily reduces water needs for cleaning as well as chemical use and waste down the drain.
      We recycle 100% of our cold water that’s used in the cooling process (which happens to be nearly 1,000 gallons of water each time we brew).
    • Minimize heating/cooling (fuel use) – Our system, that utilizes double jacketed glycol tanks and steam (versus fuel), is incredibly efficient in heating and cooling throughout the brewing process.
  • Efforts to maximize the supply chain:
    • We order ingredients and materials in bulk to minimize shipping (fuel) waste.
    • All of our spent grain, whole leaf hops and adjunct ingredients such as coconut, cocoa nibs, spices, etc. (around 15,000 lbs. per week) are given — for free — to local farmers as supplemental feed for their livestock.
      • We’ve actually shifted a large portion of our hop additions on many of our popular beers to whole leaf hops in an effort to provide more to our local farms and reduce the amount of material that gets flushed into our drainage. This process is significantly more time consuming (takes six times the man power to handle and dispose versus hop pellets).
    • We utilize recyclable material as often as possible. Our aluminum cans are recycled materials and paktech holders are both made from 100% recycled materials.
    • We often purchase ingredients from local suppliers. We source from Epiphany Malt (Durham, NC) and utilize The Farm at Dover Vineyards (Concord, NC) for small batch adjunct ingredients, such as fruits and vegetables.
  • Efforts to maximize distribution chain:
    • We are constantly reviewing and refining our self-distribution best practices. Instead of utilizing a third party distributor, we are able to provide single stop deliveries to our accounts, and utilize smaller vehicles and efficient route planning in the process.

Future plans to reduce our environmental footprint

The Brewers Association provides the Sustainability Benchmarking Report to its members every few years. Each year, we continue to utilize the key performance indicators (KPIs) found in the report to support our planning and evaluation of future and past, and allow the information to support us in evaluating possible improvements. For instance, PV Solar Panels are a great idea that we plan to pursue, but we’ve spent the first several years at our main production facility determining our energy needs. Otherwise, the fuel, rare earth elements and other costs to produce, deliver and install a system could be greater than the offsetting benefit of lessening our draw on the current grid.

We are so proud of the strides we’ve made in recent years, but we know there’s much more to be done. Just like any other small to mid-sized business, capital and physical space plays a role in our inability to make frequent giant leaps. Instead, as we continue to grow and improve our business step-by-step, our environmental sustainability practices will be refined as well.

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Mon 20
Mon 20
Mon 20

Craft Night: Beer Caddy & Opener

August 20 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
Tue 21
Tue 21

NoDable Release: Cherry & Blackberry Gose

August 21 @ 4:00 pm - 9:00 pm