Review of Sustainable Brewing Workshop, SeattleMarch 10, 2014
Last Thursday, as part of the Sustainable Craft Brew Workshop at Redhook Brewery in Woodinville, WA, brewers and technical assistance experts wrestled with a deceptively simple question: How can we brew beer better? Presenters detailed a slew of metrics, services, resources, and tools available to help brewers get a better gauge of resources and opportunities available to decrease environmental impact while saving money. For those who missed the evening, or for attendees who would like a second look, here are individual presentations:
- Julia Person (CBA) – CBA’s Sustainability Efforts
- Michelle Gaither and Ken Grimm (PPRC) – Technical Assistance Work with Breweries Around the NW
- Dan Ferguson (Ecology, TREE) – What is TREE and Why Should Businesses Use It?
- Bobbi Wallace (City of Kirkland) – Impacts of MicroBreweries on Sewer Systems
- Colleen Barta (IERE) – Earthsure and LCA Software for Breweries
Here are some summaries of the above presentations:
Julia Person, Sustainability Coordinator of Craft Brew Alliance (CBA), detailed CBA’s efforts to reduce their use of energy, water, waste, and CO2. CBA collects an impressive amount of data on their operations so that they can address specific pollution culprits. Person highlighted the ways that their Redhook Brewery in Woodinville, WA, took advantage of affordable technical assistance programs like Ecology’s Technical Resources for Engineering Efficiency (TREE) and the Puget Sound Energy, Industrial Systems Optimization Program (ISOP). These programs helped Redhook save significant energy costs by pointing out fixable compressed air leaks and reducing the energy stresses involved in heating and cooling systems.
Michelle Gaither and Ken Grimm, of PPRC, shared information about PPRC’s work with breweries in Oregon and Alaska. With Fort George Brewery in Oregon, Gaither worked with the Oregon Manufacturing Extension Partnership (OMEP) and the Oregon Energy Efficiency Center to uncover opportunities for the brewery to improve its energy efficiency and waste disposal practices. Some of the recommendations included a lighting retrofit and improving tank / pipe insulation. Ken Grimm discussed his work with Midnight Sun Brewery in Alaska, which involved assessing the potential installation of a nitrogen generator. A nitrogen generator, which draws nitrogen out of the nitrogen-rich atmosphere, offered many benefits to Midnight Sun (and likely other midsized to larger craft breweries). For example, Grimm said, a generator could: replace CO2 in the headspace of beer tanks; replace the CO2 used to clean equipment; and reduce the waste that currently occurs due to fobbing, or the excessive foaming of over-carbonated beer. Instead of the nitrogen generator, Midnight Sun opted to purchase a centrifuge filter. While not solving problems associated with CO2, the centrifuge replaced the brewery’s old filtration method of diatomaceous earth. The new centrifuge allows the brewery to reclaim three to seven percent more beer and reduce its water use by 64,000 gallons per year. It also offers unquantified health savings because it reduces labor hours, chemical usage, and worker exposure to silica dust.
Dan Ferguson, with Washington State Dept. of Ecology’s Technical Resources for Engineering Efficiency (TREE) program, outlined the purpose and scope of the program. TREE, which serves to reduce a company’s environmental impact and improve process efficiency, offers assessments of air emissions, hazardous waste, solid waste, water use, wastewater, and energy use. Ferguson emphasized that the program exists to help businesses that may lack engineering staff or pollution prevention experience. Before digging into specific engineering improvements, TREE offers an initial site visit for free. For small businesses, what’s not to like?
Bobbi Wallace, of the City of Kirkland Department of Public Works, gave a regulatory perspective on why businesses should consider what they’re putting into their sewer systems. She broke down the King County Discharge Permit into a few simple recommendations for breweries to follow. Most importantly, breweries should ensure that wastes – spent yeast and grains – are going to farms (as animal feed) or being composted rather than going down the drain. Wallace reminded breweries to consider their storm systems – to have a spill kit on hand (free from the Department of Ecology for small businesses) and to clean storm drains yearly. Wallace also made a plea for communities to push for more biodigestors so that small businesses can have a place to take different kinds of waste. She ended by saying that the King County Industrial Waste is working on a detailed guide of Best Management Practices for the brewery and winery industries. The guide will be out soon.
Colleen Barta, with the Institute for Environmental Research and Education (IERE), unveiled the company’s new Life Cycle Assessment software tailored to breweries. Breweries can use the software to get a holistic understanding – from “cradle to grave,” or from extraction to end of life – of their individual products and processes. Breweries can see, for example, how different beers require different amounts of water or land use. Or they can see which lifecycle processes are causing the most CO2 emissions. By giving a holistic picture of beer’s lifecycle, the tool can be used to reduce both environmental footprint and business costs. IERE is piloting the LCA software with breweries in working toward a new Environmental Product Declaration Program, called Earthsure.
Redhook’s Maintenance Manager, Kurt Schmidt, gave the 40 plus attendees a tour of Redhook’s brewery. Schmidt said he enjoys making continuous improvements by always asking questions about the way they’re doing things. “I’m never satisfied,” he said. “So there’s always more work to do.” Schmidt recently oversaw light fixture changes in many rooms of the brewery. One brewing room switched to T5 LED lights, which threw enough light to remove about 40 percent of the lights in the room. The brewery also recently made a major change in their bottling line by switching from a stainless steel conveyor system to an all-plastic one. The switch reduced line friction to allow for substantial savings in soap and water use.
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