This summer, for the first time, the Breckenridge Summer Beer Festival has partnered with the High Country Conservation Center and made a two-year commitment for the brew fest to be a Zero Waste event.
Event organizers have provided vendors with guidelines to follow to divert as much waste from the landfill as possible, such as using recyclable cups and containers and compostable paper products, and HC3 volunteers will be on-hand educating consumers about compost and recycling stations.
Jessie Burley, community programs manager for HC3, said she hopes the event can inspire brewers to implement Zero Waste policies as part of the culture of their businesses.
“I think it’s something that they could put into practice so that when they attend other events, they are asking questions to other event organizers: What are you doing with your waste? What types of material can we bring to further divert wasted out of the landfill?” Burley said.
For many of the breweries attending the festival, being environmentally conscious is already an important part of the business plan, from brewing to packaging to spent grain and composting. Here are a few breweries to high-five at the fest for their initiatives.
Water, water everywhere
Odell Brewing Co. in Fort Collins uses a lot of water. Beer, after all, is mostly water, and water is used in other processes throughout the brewing process.
“Water is a big aspect of brewing,” said Corey Odell, sustainability coordinator for the brewery. “That’s what gets used the most, obviously, and we installed a pump two years ago that recirculates water on our packaging line.”
The water comes in cold from the city lines and cools one of the systems on the packaging line, after which it recirculates to rinse the insides of the bottles before bottling and the outsides after the bottles are capped.
Water appears in Odell’s environmental stewardship efforts, as well. As part of the Northern Colorado Craft Breweries Water Group, Odell joined other breweries, large and small, in a project to remove the Josh Ames Diversion Dam on the Poudre River.
“It was a dam that had not been used in 20 years,” Odell said. “We removed it to create a natural wildlife area and return the stream to its normal state.”
Other sustainability efforts at Odell include using solar panels to offset about 10 percent of the brewery’s power usage, recycling spent grain as cattle feed and striving toward a zero landfill goal, Odell said.
Save the landfill
Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. has a laundry list of eco-friendly initiatives, including carbon dioxide and fuel-cell recovery and shipping by rail whenever possible to reduce emissions, but Becca Peterson, with Sierra Nevada, said the brewery is now focusing on diverting solid waste from the landfill.
“In 2012, we diverted 99.8 percent of our waste from the brewery, taproom and pub from the landfill, which is huge,” she said. “We understand the toll that it takes on the environment to get beer from the brewery to retail accounts, so we’re doing everything we can to reduce our footprint.”
Spent grain and yeast goes to local farmers for cattle feed, and food scraps and other organic material go into the brewery’s HotRot composting machine.
“The HotRot works at such a high temperature, you put in food, scraps, paper towels — everything that’s compostable — and with the high heat and the shape and size of it, it can do mass amounts quickly with the heat that it composts,” Peterson said.
All of the compost generated is spread across the brewery’s 2-acre food garden for its brewpubs, an 8-acre on-site plot for growing hops, another 3 acres of hops offsite and a 110-acre plot of barley. All of this waste diversion has earned Sierra Nevada a Platinum Zero Waste Certification through the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council, but the brewery isn’t stopping there.
“It’s an unbelievable feat, but our goal for the year is 100 percent,” Peterson said. “We want 100 percent of everything that comes out of our brewery to have a home or a use or be composted back to our garden for the food that we put on the tables in our taproom.”
If you’ve ever walked into the Crazy Mountain Brewing Co. taproom in Edwards, you’ve likely noticed the hand-carved wood trappings, from tap handles to benches to branded wooden flight paddles.
“We send our employees into local BLM land, the White River Forest, and look for those trees that have slash marks in spray paint, and that’s dead beetle kill that needs to be removed,” said Marisa Selvy, co-owner and vice president of marketing for Crazy Mountain. “We make our stuff from those trees rather than new lumber. We like using beetle kill since it’s already dead and us taking it out of the forest reduces the fire risks in our local forest.”
The brewery also conserves resources by using Paktech six-pack toppers for its canned beer. The toppers are made from 99 percent recycled plastic and are themselves 100 percent recyclable, either at a recycle center or by bringing them back to Crazy Mountain, where they can be reused and snapped onto a new six-pack of beer.
“We are reusing the plastic, and they don’t have any large holes in them, so animals can’t get stuck, as opposed to the traditional six-pack holders; those are really bad for the environment,” Selvy said.
Crazy Mountain also recycles cardboard waste, scratch-and-dent cans and spent grain and partners with the Eagle Valley Alliance for Sustainability to perform energy audits and the Eagle River Watershed Council to protect local rivers and streams. Even their mash tuns and fermenting tanks have a reduced impact.
“We buy a lot of our tanks and equipment second hand because there’s a high resale value,” Selvy said. “Instead of going to a factory and getting them to use more natural resources and precious metals for new tanks, we are able to shop and find the used ones because they are just as good as the new ones.”