By Nexus Media, with Thor Cheston
Thor Cheston loves craft beer so much, he was made a knight in Belgium, the global brewing capital. He's also a clean energy geek. When he founded Right Proper Brewing in Washington, DC, he invested in rooftop solar panels and energy efficiency.
Cheston recently spoke about his passion for brewing—and his love of renewable energy—with Nexus Media News. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Thor Cheston, founder of Right Proper Brewing, pours a beer. DCSEU
What got you into brewing, and why DC?
For a very long time, I really didn't know what I wanted to do. I graduated from Georgetown University in 2001 with a history degree, and I kind of puttered around for a little bit. Then, I went back to do a pre-med program thinking I wanted to apply to medical school—that's when I really started to fall in love with craft beer.
The Belgians treat their beer the way the French do their wine. That really intrigued me. I drank one, and from that point on I was hooked. So I just kind of drank everything and read everything and even started traveling specifically to go to breweries.
I met Robert Wiedmaier in April 2007, a chef here in DC, and he was opening a big Belgian craft-beer inspired restaurant. I had a ton of success with him, but in September of 2011, my wife and I decided that it was time to take the leap. I quit my job and focused entirely on my own brewery.
It took me two years to write the business plan and raise the money for our first brew pub. Later, when we raised the money for our current production brewery, it took me 18 hours—the brew pub really allowed us to get a foothold to build up the brand, and to build up excitement.
The Right Proper Brewing Company tasting room.DCSEU
So with all that Belgian beer came a knighthood?
[Laughs] I would go to Belgium at least once a year to hang out, and I was buying so much beer for restaurants. With the help of some importers and some brewers, I got to go to Belgium quite often, and I got to know everyone pretty well.
Alain De Laet from the Huyghe brewery, which makes Delirium Tremens, is part of the Belgian Brewers guild. Every year they induct a few non-Belgians, people who are not actually Belgian brewers but who have helped the industry. So he nominated me, which was totally amazing. What was even more amazing was that they voted me in. It was pretty cool.
The Right Proper brewery in Washington, DC. Right Proper Brewing Company
Craft brews are popular, but few people realize the energy required to make them. When did you start realizing how inefficient brewing is?
I was an apprentice for Jason Oliver—now the brewmaster for Devil's Backbone. I would go and work for him at the Gordon Biersch restaurant in downtown DC, and he was so instrumental in everything I learned about beer.
One of the first things he taught me was that we're making a very healthy product. It's completely natural. It's free of artificial ingredients, and if it's a local beer that's unfiltered and unpasteurized, there are lots of live cultures that are good for you. On the flip side, he explained it actually can be really bad for the environment, if you brew beer irresponsibly.
It takes, on average, five glasses of hot water to make one glass of cold beer. There's a lot of heating, a lot of refrigeration, a lot of power and a massive amount of water.
I grew up in an environmentally-conscious family, so it was always in the back of my head that the foundation of what I was doing was not really that great for the environment. And we're a very community-oriented business. Paying respect to the community—being an amenity to the community and not something that is imposed on the community—is part of our mission.
Since we had the luxury of designing our own brewery, we went with a company, Prospero, that has systems designed to recover the vast majority of the water we use, and to retain heat. They're very, very well designed systems—the hot liquor tank and the mash tun are actually combined into one piece of equipment, so you're retaining heat while you're using it in the process, and you're able to capture that heat again.
For the vast majority of the water that we use, all of that heat-transfer energy is used to reheat the strike water, our brew water. So from the get-go, I started to feel better about it.
Solar panels adorn the top of the Right Proper brewery. Right Proper Brewing Company
What about the building?
We bought a south-facing building that has this low, flat, very wide roof. The first summer we had it, it was just baking in the sun. You couldn't touch the front bricks in August, it was just so hot.
We were sucking up so much A/C, and we were like, "Man, all you need are some solar panels and we could probably power this whole damn operation." The question was how could we afford it.
That was when we learned that, in DC, we're able to sell back energy credits and that financing is available. All of a sudden, what seemed like a big construction project way outside our budget looked affordable.
So, now we like to say our roof looks like it was designed by Tesla. It's the coolest thing in the world. Our entire roof is covered by solar panels, and in January we're building a solar canopy that's going to come out from the front of our building and cover a little outdoor seating area for our guests. Those are going to be layered, translucent solar panels. And, through the help of the DC Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU), we got a grant to retrofit all of our interior lighting with high-efficiency LEDs. It was just amazing.
On average, the prediction is anywhere from 75 to 85 percent of our consumed electricity will come from solar power, and at peak times during the summer, we're going to be producing more electricity than we're consuming. We're super, super, super happy about that. We started using #SolarPoweredBeer in our social media.
As long as D.C. keeps doing what they're doing, it's a boon for small businesses like us. Yes we're doing well as a business, but we're still a small business. We still have to hustle. We still have really lean times where, you know. I'm waiting for the mailman so I can go to the bank and deposit that check so we can make payroll.
Yes, we're taking these steps to be more environmentally conscious and promote sustainability, but at the same time it really does help small businesses by reducing overhead as well.
The Right Proper Brewing Company brewpub & kitchen in Washington, DC. Right Proper Brewing Company
So, what's next?
To continue awareness, we're creating a display that shows pictures of our roof and how much energy we consume, and how much is produced right here on site, to really give people perspective.
We're also working with DCSEU to create a logo that indicates that we're a solar-powered business. We have a "Made in DC" stamp, and we have a "Certified Independent Craft Beer" stamp that we get from the Brewer's Association that says, "Hey, you know, we're not actually owned by Budweiser," so I asked DCSEU if they have anything like a stamp that says, "Hey, we're a solar-powered business."
They said no, but they said they'd work on it, and they're making coasters for us that help communicate that Right Proper Brewing Company is a solar-powered business, so people can feel good about drinking the beer. The fact that we're a solar-powered business really helps define who we are.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.
By Julián García Walther
One morning in January, I found myself 30 feet up a tall metal pole, carrying 66 pounds of aluminum antennas and thick weatherproofed cabling. From this vantage point, I could clearly see the entire Punta Banda Estuary in northwestern Mexico. As I looked through my binoculars, I observed the estuary's sandy bar and extensive mudflats packed with thousands of migratory shorebirds frenetically pecking the mud for food.
There are currently few Motus stations in Mexico, leading to a large information gap. Julián García Walther / CC BY-ND
Red knots and many other shorebirds travel thousands of miles from breeding grounds in the Arctic (left) to nonbreeding grounds in Latin America (right). Julián García Walther / CC BY-ND
Motus stations require a high vantage point that overlooks estuaries. Julián García Walther / CC BY-ND
Any bird with a transmitter will be picked up if it flies within 12 miles (20 kilometers) of a Motus station. Julián García Walther / CC BY-ND<h2>Tagging Birds</h2><p>The stations alone can't detect these animals. The final step, which will happen in the coming months, is to catch birds and tag them. To do this, our team will set up a soft, spring-loaded net called a whoosh net in sandy areas where the red knots rest above the high-tide line. When birds walk past the net, the crew leader will release the trigger, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwMiA2iqVc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">safely trapping the birds with the net</a>.</p>
WhooshNetCapture.MTS<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6440038cdc58961906f5fa164b457688"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/vwMiA2iqVc0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The world's oceans and coastal ecosystems can store remarkable amounts of carbon dioxide. But if they're damaged, they can also release massive amounts of emissions back into the atmosphere.
By Kimberly Nicole Pope
During this year's Davos Agenda Week, leaders from the private and public sectors highlighted the urgent need to halt and reverse nature loss. Deliberate action on the interlinked climate and ecological crises to achieve a net-zero, nature-positive economy is paramount. At the same time, these leaders also presented a message of hope: that investing in nature holds the key to ensuring economic and social prosperity and resilience.
- 16 Essential Books About Environmental Justice, Racism and ... ›
- 10 Best Books On Climate Change, According to Activists - EcoWatch ›
- 14 Inspiring New Environmental Books to Read During the ... ›
By Brett Wilkins
While some mainstream environmental organizations welcomed Tuesday's introduction of the CLEAN Future Act in the House of Representatives, progressive green groups warned that the bill falls far short of what's needed to meaningfully tackle the climate crisis—an existential threat they say calls for bolder action like the Green New Deal.
<div id="25965" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6116a1c2b1b913ad51c3ea576f2e196c"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1366827205427425289" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">BREAKING: Rep @FrankPallone just released his CLEAN Future Act — which he claims to be an ambitious bill to combat… https://t.co/M7nR0es196</div> — Friends of the Earth (Action) (@Friends of the Earth (Action))<a href="https://twitter.com/foe_us/statuses/1366827205427425289">1614711974.0</a></blockquote></div>
<div id="189f0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aa31bacec80d88b49730e8591de5d26d"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1366863402912657416" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">The CLEAN Future Act "fails to grasp the fundamental truth of fighting climate change: We must stop extracting and… https://t.co/yREn6Qx9tn</div> — Food & Water Watch (@Food & Water Watch)<a href="https://twitter.com/foodandwater/statuses/1366863402912657416">1614720605.0</a></blockquote></div>
- Biden Plans to Fight Climate Change in a New Way - EcoWatch ›
- Bipartisan Climate Bill Highlights Forest Restoration, Conservation ... ›
- Redwoods are the world's tallest trees.
- Now scientists have discovered they are even bigger than we thought.
- Using laser technology they map the 80-meter giants.
- Trees are a key plank in the fight against climate change.
They are among the largest trees in the world, descendants of forests where dinosaurs roamed.
Pixabay / Simi Luft<p><span>Until recently, measuring these trees meant scaling their 80 meter high trunks with a tape measure. Now, a team of scientists from University College London and the University of Maryland uses advanced laser scanning, to create 3D maps and calculate the total mass.</span></p><p>The results are striking: suggesting the trees <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">may be as much as 30% larger than earlier measurements suggested.</a> Part of that could be due to the additional trunks the Redwoods can grow as they age, <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">a process known as reiteration</a>.</p>
New 3D measurements of large redwood trees for biomass and structure. Nature / UCL<p>Measuring the trees more accurately is important because carbon capture will probably play a key role in the battle against climate change. Forest <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2020/09/carbon-sequestration-natural-forest-regrowth" target="_blank">growth could absorb billions of tons</a> of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere each year.</p><p>"The importance of big trees is widely-recognised in terms of carbon storage, demographics and impact on their surrounding ecosystems," the authors wrote<a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank"> in the journal Nature</a>. "Unfortunately the importance of big trees is in direct proportion to the difficulty of measuring them."</p><p>Redwoods are so long lived because of their ability to <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-73733-6" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cope with climate change, resist disease and even survive fire damage</a>, the scientists say. Almost a fifth of their volume may be bark, which helps protect them.</p>
Carbon Capture Champions<p><span>Earlier research by scientists at Humboldt University and the University of Washington found that </span><a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378112716302584" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Redwood forests store almost 2,600 tonnes of carbon per hectare</a><span>, their bark alone containing more carbon than any other neighboring species.</span></p><p>While the importance of trees in fighting climate change is widely accepted, not all species enjoy the same protection as California's coastal Redwoods. In 2019 the world lost the equivalent of <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30 soccer fields of forest cover every minute</a>, due to agricultural expansion, logging and fires, according to The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).</p>
Pixabay<p>Although <a href="https://c402277.ssl.cf1.rackcdn.com/publications/1420/files/original/Deforestation_fronts_-_drivers_and_responses_in_a_changing_world_-_full_report_%281%29.pdf?1610810475" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the rate of loss is reported to have slowed in recent years</a>, reforesting the world to help stem climate change is a massive task.</p><p><span>That's why the World Economic Forum launched the Trillion Trees Challenge (</span><a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a><span>) and is engaging organizations and individuals across the globe through its </span><a href="https://uplink.weforum.org/uplink/s/uplink-issue/a002o00000vOf09AAC/trillion-trees" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Uplink innovation crowdsourcing platform</a><span> to support the project.</span></p><p>That's backed up by research led by ETH Zurich/Crowther Lab showing there's potential to restore tree coverage across 2.2 billion acres of degraded land.</p><p>"Forests are critical to the health of the planet," according to <a href="https://www.1t.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1t.org</a>. "They sequester carbon, regulate global temperatures and freshwater flows, recharge groundwater, anchor fertile soil and act as flood barriers."</p><p><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor">Reposted with permission from the </em><span><em data-redactor-tag="em" data-verified="redactor"><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/redwoods-store-more-co2-and-are-more-enormous-than-we-thought/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em></span></p>