As breweries prepare and begin to reopen, now is a great time for a refresher on the basics of sustainable implementations within brewing. The world that we are returning to is a new normal, and while many things are changing, it is also important to remain focused on practices that should continue to be upheld in the coming months.
A topic that we believe to be extremely relevant, especially during these times of COVID-19 is the importance of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). Developing a plan for how to operate all aspects of the brewery is key in order for operating efficiently, effectively, and safely. SOPs can cover almost all operations. As businesses are being directed to develop plans on how to safely operate in compliance with social distancing regulations, this is a great opportunity to span these efforts for additional planning. The Iowa Waste Reduction Center has developed an Environmental Plan Template that assists breweries with effective planning. The template covers topics including Facility Equipment, Operational Efficiencies, Wastewater Management, and Solid Waste Management.
Another resource, which we have always strongly encouraged is the implementation of tracking mechanisms, such as the Brewers Association Sustainability Benchmarking Tool. Continuously monitoring tracking mechanisms for areas including water, wastewater, energy and solid waste diversion will lead to decreased usage of utilities. This practice can be rewarded with lower monthly utility costs for a brewery, as well as decreased water, air, and waste emissions. The main operating goal of a craft brewery is to produce beer, so subsequently keeping a constant monitor on the production of beer may help produce significant increases in efficiency- more beer output, lower costs, and emissions.
Another focus, although more common to begin with is the implementation of high-efficiency appliances. This would include equipment such as water heaters, refrigeration units, and lighting to name a few. Since a large number of craft breweries are young or have made equipment upgrades in recent years, the installation of new, more efficient equipment is not always necessary. Here are a few suggestions of additional energy efficiency practices that can be implemented: (1) Install motion sense timers for lighting throughout the facility. Areas with lower traffic such as restrooms, office spaces, and storage spaces can benefit from lower electricity usage by using motion sense timers to decrease the amount of time that those lights are turned on. (2) Install AND program a programmable thermostat for the facility. Standardizing times and temperatures for the facility will help optimize temperature during peak and off-hours, lowering overall energy usage and costs. (3) Installation of plastic strip curtains on refrigeration unit doors. Strip curtains will help to trap in cold air, where it would more easily escape with foot traffic in and out of coolers.
Lastly, a focus on solid waste diversion should be maintained as breweries, and especially those with kitchens return to serving the public. It is with certainty that disposable materials such as glasses, plates, and cutlery will be used increasingly in establishments. It will be important to take responsibility for ensuring that these products will be disposed of properly, through recycling and composting (i.e. food products) to minimize the amount of waste being landfilled. Biodegradable products are an option and despite their increased cost, can make a significant difference in waste diversion.
These practices are just a few of the many that can be implemented by craft breweries to help ensure a high level of environmental responsibility. As our country begins to transition to a new normal, we have a great opportunity to put a focus back on sustainability.