Certain optimistic political types and their yes-men in Congress may deny the notion that our climate and ecosystem have become unstable and increasingly vulnerable. But for the rest of us, it’s no secret that climate change is real. (Just scroll through Bernie Sanders’ Twitter account.)
Of course, with any issue there are going to be supporters and dissenters, even if the facts overwhelmingly favor one side. Thankfully, at least when it comes to fighting climate change, the alcohol industry—specifically the beer industry— has a good number of supporters. One example: a craft brewery creating biodegradable six-pack rings to help save wildlife. But, as you’ll see below, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
So, if you count yourself among the climate-change aware, and you care about making a change, these are some eco-friendly breweries you should support by sippin’ on their beers:
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Straight out of the concrete jungle of Brooklyn, New York, Brooklyn Brewery uses 100% sustainable energy sourced from wind turbines. The brewery doesn’t have the means to produce wind power on-site, so it draws the energy from a wind farm in upstate New York. In addition, Brooklyn Brewery pays New York and New Jersey dairy and livestock farmers to take away its spent grain so it doesn’t get dumped as waste. The brewery loses money from these eco-friendly efforts but doesn’t seem to care.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
Established in Chico, California in 1979, Sierra Nevada has become the sixth-largest brewing company in the United States. Thankfully, success has not driven it to forget about the environment; the company has invested in green hardware and infrastructure, installing 10,000 solar panels on the brewery’s rooftop and in its parking lot, providing all the energy used. Almost all solid waste is diverted from landfills, and used water is purified to hydrate Sierra Nevada’s hop and barley crops.
Japan’s fifth-largest brewery and the only major brewery on the island of Okinawa, Orion Breweries uses water from mountain springs, while waste water from the brewing process is recycled to wash bottles and clean other machinery. Hops, yeast, malt, and grains are recycled as fertilizers for animal feed. There may not be solar power or wind power, but the folks at Orion recycle like mad men.
New Belgium Brewery
Founded in Colorado in 1991, New Belgium Brewery is the third-largest craft brewer and seventh-largest overall brewer in the U.S. The brewery is aiming to become 100% wind powered and, like Brooklyn Brewery, it will have to give up some of its profits to do so. Roughly 10% of the brewery’s electric power comes from methane gas collected on-site by a water treatment plant, which also saves that gas from being released into the air.
Founded in 1984 in Portland, Oregon, BridgePort Brewing uses heat exchangers to provide significant energy savings. Essentially, the heat exchangers reuse heat so BridgePort doesn’t have to recreate it throughout their brewing process. The company also sources as much of its raw materials as possible from local farmers and businesses, including malts and bottles. Dairy farmers take used grain and yeast to feed their livestock. All these measures help reduce BridgePort’s carbon footprint.
Odell Brewing Company
Founded in 1989, Odell has set a goal to reduce CO2 emissions through waste reduction, recycling, and utilizing renewable energy sources. The company is 100% wind powered and is lined with skylights that dramatically reduce CO2 emissions. On a cooler note, the company encourages its employees to bike to work and, if biking isn’t possible, to carpool with fellow employees. Lastly, Odell delivery trucks run on bio-diesel, which emits 78% less CO2 than standard fuel.
Steam Whistle Brewing
Founded in Toronto in 2000, Steam Whistle Brewing uses heavy glasses and painted-on labels to allow its bottles to be recycled up to 45 times and to eliminate unnecessary paper. The brewery is also powered by clean energy and sends its spent grain to farmers to feed livestock.
Founded in 2006 in Eugene, Oregon, Ninkasi Brewery is all about being eco-friendly, from saving water and keeping it clean for the environment, to recycling cardboard, paper, and spent grain. Like Odell Brewing Company, it encourages employees to bike to work.
Founded in Colorado Springs in 2008, Trinity Brewing is housed in a 100%-recycled building. Now that’s what we call eco-friendly. Trinity uses as many raw and local materials as possible in the brewing process and recycles food compost, grain, glass, plastic, and metal waste. It also barrel ages its beers in recycled wine barrels, which gives the beer a unique taste and prevents undue waste. The company also donates frequently to non-profit organizations focused on combating climate change.
Hardywood Park Craft Brewery
Founded in 2011 in Richmond, Virginia, Hardywood Park Craft Brewery runs on 100% sustainable energy, 99% of it wind power. It also saves water and recycled spent grain and packaging. Most unusual of all, the in-house bar is made from up-cycled wood and fixtures.
Most of the breweries on this list save water, but they generally don’t let us know to what extent. Founded in 1988 in Bend, Oregon, Deschutes Brewery actually does let us know how much water it saves: one billion clean gallons of water returned annually to the Deschutes River. That’s a lot of water. It also uses 100% clean energy from renewable sources and donates a dollar from every barrel to community organizations. The money adds up; this year, donations totaled $335,000.
Founded in 1995 in Durango, Colorado, Ska Brewing is 100% wind powered and solar lit. Ska uses sustainable energy not only in its brew house but its delivery vans. It uses environmentally friendly aluminum cans and recycled packaging materials, and the brewery’s insulation is made of old jeans. Even more notable: customers can recycle six-pack containers at the brewery in exchange for cold, liquid, carbonated beer.
Alaskan Brewing Company
Founded in 1986 in Juneau, Alaska, Alaskan Brewing Company aims to have zero net negative effect on the environment by recycling and reusing as much waste and emissions as it uses to power the brewing process. The company installed and operates a carbon dioxide reclamation system that captures and cleans CO2 and uses it both to package the beer and purge oxygen from holding tanks. The system prevents roughly 783,000 pounds of global warming-contributing CO2 from being released into the atmosphere.Alaskan Brewing also uses a mash filter press to save over 60,000 gallons of diesel fuel each year.