Back to All

The Importance of Sustainability for Craft Breweries

January 6, 2016

Craft Breweries Are Setting the Bar High

When you think of a craft brewery, you typically think about the delicious beverages it produces. What you almost certainly do not think about is the water and wastewater management challenges they face. For these breweries, practicing sustainability is more vital than ever.

Many craft breweries are beginning to operate under the mindfulness of energy and the environment, not only because it’s smart for business, but because it will help cut certain costs.

For example, in 2013, Lagunitas Brewing Company was spending nearly $1 million per year to ship its wastewater elsewhere, due to the fact that Petaluma, California—the city in which the brewery is located—couldn’t handle the company’s needs. Instead of continuing to throw money away on trucks hauling it offsite, Lagunitas invested in an innovative solution. They were the first company to sign up for Cambrian’s EcoVolt Membrane Bioreactor (MBR), which was designed to serve the food and beverage industry by helping to slash utility costs by capturing energy in wastewater and treating water onsite. Even if the initial invest for a system like this was on the expensive side, it would pay for itself over the long haul.

Not only can these systems help from an operational and cost perspective, sometimes it’s necessary.

Craft breweries are often located in small cities, which sometimes forces them to become innovative due to these cities not being able to handle the growing quantities of water and wastewater breweries use and produce. The solids that build up in wastewater cannot be handled by big cities with older treatment facilities and, as mentioned, smaller cities can only handle so much of it.

In addition to these treatment systems, many craft breweries are also taking more simple approaches, such as reducing packaging by making the switch to cans instead of bottles.

While the importance of these issues may not be front and center when it comes to the minds of big breweries, this is another area in which smaller, craft breweries can separate themselves and gain new customers who may be disappointed in the way major brewers handle the issue of sustainability.

It all ties back to the fact that the idea of sustainable business is gaining more traction. Companies who make a habit out of practicing these strategies gain positive press and typically help strengthen the local community in the sense that they use a lot of local or regional materials. Simply put: these strategies are good for overall business.

Resisting the urge to go corporate and get bought up by companies like AB InBev is one that is probably very difficult for many of these craft breweries. However, their loyalty to community is stronger than the desire to open themselves to widespread distribution networks.

Ultimately, there are certainly pros and cons that comprise the decision of whether or not to go corporate for some, but most craft breweries take pride in the fact that they can successfully operate without “selling out” to big-name companies.

Sustainability is no longer something that can be ignored when operating a business and the sooner big companies begin acting like the craft-brewing industry, the environment will be for the better.

Disposal of hazardous waste doesn’t have to be painful.