With the growing craft brewing industry in Colorado, Kaitlin Urso and Derek Boer of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment have started an assistance program to pinpoint practices that local breweries can use to decrease their environmental impact, increase profitability, and develop more sustainable practices industry-wide. After consultation with a few local breweries, Kaitlin and Derek have identified some sustainable brewing best practices and are looking to expand the program to assist and collaborate with more craft breweries across the state.
Derek and Kaitlin have focused their efforts on helping reduce environmental impact from the industry by performing free on-site assessments of brewing facilities and making customized recommendations related to energy efficiency, air pollution reduction, water use, and waste reduction. Through their research and collaboration with environmentally conscious local breweries, they determined that breweries can save money and energy by making small changes like installing new seals, timed doors, and cooler insulation. Breweries can also significantly reduce water loss by retrofitting a canning and bottling line to reuse internal rinse water for the external rinse. To reduce their air pollution, breweries can install filters to better control dust production in the grain handling process or install a low emissions burner in their boiler.
So far, six Colorado craft breweries have participated in the sustainability assistance program and Kaitlin and Derek are looking to expand the program to assist more breweries around the state. Each participating brewery has implemented a number of innovative techniques to increase their cost efficiency while simultaneously decreasing their environmental impact. For example, Great Divide Brewing Company has implemented a number of impressive sustainability measures at their new RiNo facility, including a rain catchment system, motion-sensored LED lights, and variable frequency drives (VFDs) that increase efficiency in their brewing process by allowing the facility to match production speeds at various stages.
In Boulder, Upslope Brewing Company is experimenting with a unique, innovative project to use the carbon dioxide produced during their fermentation process to grow a specific type of algae that is being harvested by a third party to make sustainable printer ink. Avery Brewing Company has significantly reduced their air pollution by installing high-efficiency boilers with low emissions burners. In addition, all participating breweries reduce their waste significantly by sending their spent grains to be used as animal feed at local farms.
The benefits of participating in this sustainable brewing project don't stop with money-saving and pollution prevention practices. Breweries that go above and beyond with their sustainability and community involvement efforts can receive state recognition through the Colorado Environmental Leadership Program and the Neighborhood Connects Program. Moving forward, Kaitlin and Derek are ready to do more free assessments for craft breweries across the state. They also plan to hold a networking event in the summer for participating breweries, where beer-makers can meet and learn from each other's sustainability best-practices.
Alex Niebergall is a marketing and communications specialist at the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment.