Since its inception in 2008, FirstCarbon Solutions (FCS) has been dedicated to sustainability by assisting companies, governments, institutions and non-profit organizations manage their greenhouse gas emissions, monitor their energy consumption, and manage their supply chain. As a steward of the environment, FCS takes great pleasure in highlighting those who are equally passionate about ensuring a more sustainable future. To help spread the word about companies, organizations, and other entities that foster a sustainable mindset, FCS would like to introduce the Sustainability Matters series. The following article is the first in this ongoing series, which will focus on those who share a commitment to sustainability, the environment and our planet.  Sometimes, the series will concentrate on those companies and organizations that conduct routine, everyday business in a unique, sustainable manner.  Other times, the focus will be on those offering unique products and services in a sustainable fashion.  Either way, FCS hopes that the Sustainability Matters series can open eyes to those striving to make a difference.

Beer is the product of a few basic ingredients – water, hops, malted grain and water. Although advancements in technology have refined the brewing process over the past 5,000-plus years, beer making has evolved little. In general, the process of brewing beer is pretty wasteful, requiring large quantities of energy, water, natural gas and other resources. This changed, however, when the New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colorado entered the beer making business. New Belgium started in 1991, long before sustainability was part of everyday vernacular. Regardless, New Belgium immediately decided that its business and production model would diverge from the wasteful practices of its much larger and established peers. In fact, New Belgium was so dedicated to sustainability that a document highlighting environmental stweardship was included within the initial draft of its Core Values and Beliefs, to guide the company from being a fledgling basement brewery to a renowned craft brewer. Over the next decades, New Belgium’s sustainability practices would continue to evolve. As of 2013, they continue to refine and take much deserved pride in their environmentally responsible model.

New Belgium’s sustainability efforts are centered on reducing their impact on the environment by reducing their overall consumption of resources.The company proactively sets out to measure the resources used during their brewing process such as water, electricity and natural gas, as well as quantify their waste diversion and greenhouse gas emissions throughout the value stream. Armed with this knowledge, New Belgium is able to focus their efforts on where reductions are most needed. The following are just a few highlights of New Belgium’s ongoing efforts:

  • Reduce energy intensity by 10% from 2008 levels by 2018.
  • Reducing water use per barrel to 3.5:1 by 2015.
  • Reduce CO2e per hectoliter of beer sold by 25% from 2006 levels by 2015.

Aside from their ongoing projects, New Belgium has also:

  • Invested in efficient equipment, installing heat exchangers and designing with conservation in mind.
  • Installed a Smart Grid, enabling the two-way flow of both energy and information.
  • Constructed a generator powered by methane, a byproduct of wastewater treatment, (which is in turn) used in powering the brewery.
  • Constructed a 200 kW rooftop photovoltaic solar array, producing almost 264,000 kWh each year and contributing over 3% of total required electricity.
  • Initiated the Save the Colorado campaign, a coalition of seven sustainablility driven companies and foundations that donate money, raise awareness, and advocate for policies to promote water conservation and protect the Colorado River.
  • Diverted 99.8% over 37,000 tons of waste from landfills.
  • Established a series of greenhouse gas initiatives, such as voluntarily reporting corporate emissions and commissioning studies that look at the carbon footprint of a 6-pack from cradle to grave.

As great as these efforts are, what is more commendable is that New Belgium has set these goals, established these programs, and undertook these initiatives at a time when environmental responsibility had been nothing more than a novel idea to most. While numerous companies have incorporated environmental stewardship into their business and marketing models, including several other breweries, New Belgium has been there from the beginning. New Belgium has created an informative website that details their sustainability efforts, and even started their own sustainability blog to highlight their current efforts. Readers can check out their blog to see how New Belgium maintains being a sustainable craft brewing.

Just because New Belgium is ahead of the sustainability curve doesn’t mean that you are too late. Let FCS show your company how simple and beneficial it is to move towards a more sustainable future.

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