By Jeremy Deaton
Henry David Thoreau once said that a glass of beer would "naturalize a man at once—which would make him see green, and, if he slept, dream that he heard the wind sough among the pines."
That quote might as well be emblazoned on every IPA in America. Craft brewers across the country are finding innovative ways to guard the water, soil, air and climate on which their businesses depend.
"I ride my bike across the bridge every morning to the brewery. Underneath that bridge is the river that provides the water for our beer," said Katie Wallace, assistant director of sustainability at the New Belgium Brewing Company. "We're very connected to the resources that provide for us."
Today, New Belgium imposes an internal tax on electricity consumption, and it invests the money raised in conservation and clean power. Its push for clean energy began nearly two decades ago, when employees decided to sacrifice their bonuses to purchase wind energy.
"Jeff Lebesch and Kim Jordan, our founders, didn't just want to go and take that money back that they already promised, so they took it to their coworkers and said, 'It's your decision. If you are willing to give up your profit-sharing, then we can bring wind power to Ft. Collins. And if you aren't, we totally understand,'" said Wallace.
"They left the room, and about 45 minutes later, their coworkers emerged to let them know that they had unanimously agreed to give up any profit-sharing to bring wind power to Ft. Collins," she said. "They felt like it was an opportunity to make a statement that business supports renewable energy."
Brewing is an energy-intensive task. It takes a lot of power to boil thousands of gallons of water day after day, and that costs money. Beer makers also want to use the best ingredients—the purest water, the finest barley and the most flavorful hops. They are looking for ways to conserve energy and raw materials while protecting the integrity of their product.
Craft brew giant Sierra Nevada has integrated conservation into every step of production. More than 10,000 solar panels help power its California brewery. Another 2,000 supply electricity to its North Carolina facility, as do a pair of microturbines that run on methane captured from the brewery's wastewater treatment plant. Automated sensors turn down lights in the middle of the day when the sun comes pouring through the windows, and advanced brew kettles recycle heat that would otherwise be lost.
During fermentation, yeast turns sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide, which is captured and used to carbonate its beer. Used hops and barley are sold as cattle feed or turned into fertilizer. The final product is packaged in bottles made from recycled glass and shipped in trucks that run on used vegetable oil.
"Craft brewers inherently understand this idea of sustainability," said Cheri Chastain, who manages sustainability at Sierra Nevada and co-chairs the sustainability subcommittee of the Brewers Association, the craft beer trade group, with Wallace. "We've put together some resources to help guide craft brewers," said Chastain. "As a small brewer, you don't have a lot of money. You can't just willy-nilly waste it on things."
Solar panels at Sierra Nevada's California facilitySierra Nevada
Some beer makers have found creative ways to conserve resources. In Hawaii, where freshwater supplies are limited, Kona Brewing uses condensation collected from its air conditioner to water the habaneros and chives used in its small-batch beers. In Alaska, dairy farms are hard to come by, so instead of selling its used malt as cattle feed, Alaskan Brewing uses its spent grain to fuel a steam boiler. Magnolia Brewing and 21st Amendment in San Francisco, by contrast, send their leftovers to ReGrained, a startup that turns old malt into beer-themed snack bars.
Since even the most efficient breweries generate a certain amount of waste and pollution, some beer makers have sought ways to compensate. Last year, Brooklyn Brewery worked with the Arbor Day Foundation to plant trees across hundreds of acres of the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. The trees will soak up carbon dioxide, offsetting pollution generated by the brewery's Williamsburg, Brooklyn operation.
For brewers, climate change is an pressing issue. The Oxford Companion to Beer, edited by Brooklyn brewmaster Garrett Oliver, includes a detailed entry on global warming. It notes that the price of ingredients is "beginning to rise as the agriculture industry is affected by changing weather patterns." It explains that climate change has already hurt the quality of Czech Saaz hops and that additional warming threatens the health of other crops needed to make beer.
Climate Change Poses Threat to Key Ingredient in Beer, NOAA Warns https://t.co/yRIhwqUlpT @GoFossilFree @EUClimateAction— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1454889620.0
"There is a self-selecting nature to the type of person who wants to open a craft brewery. Generally speaking, they care about their communities and the people living in them, which does extend to the world when it comes to climate," said Rob Day, marketing director at Lord Hobo Brewing Company in Boston. He noted that conservation is also good for business. "When you are getting started, you need to save and scratch, and sometimes sustainable practices can save money." (Disclosure: Day is a longtime friend.)
Here, craft brewers have certain advantages. "Independently owned companies have much more freedom to invest in things that a traditional business model would not accept," said Chastain. "According to the Brewers Association, in order to be a craft brewer, you do have to be independently owned."
Today, independence of craft brewers is under threat as beer giants buy up smaller brands. In response, the Brewers Association has introduced an "independent craft brewer seal" to be applied to beer made by small, independently owned breweries. The hope is that consumers will seek out these brands.
For now, the large majority of craft brewers remains independent. And, in contrast to their larger counterparts, they are pushing policymakers to guard America's natural resources.
In February, 32 craft brewers sent a letter urging senators not to confirm Scott Pruitt to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). "Our breweries cannot operate without reliable, clean water supplies," it read. "We need an EPA administrator who will adopt and enforce policies that protect the water sources we use to make our great-tasting beer."
It's hard to imagine Spuds MacKenzie taking to the halls of Congress, but the new generation of American beer makers are committed conservationists. When President Trump announced the U.S. would leave the Paris agreement, a coalition of mayors, governors, university presidents, businesses and investors pledged they would continue to abide by the terms of the pact. The list includes 10 craft brewers, among them, Deschutes, New Belgium and Sierra Nevada.
"We're speaking up for what we believe in," said Chastain. "If we can add our voice to the conversation, we're happy to do that."
Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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