Editor’s note: This is part one of a three part series, profiling sustainability in Michigan breweries. Today, an introduction.

It seems as though there’s an underlying, laid back persona to craft beer. Most owners are fairly accessible, willing to chat about whatever you like.

At first glance the production of beer — and the large use of water, heat and waste production — could be wasteful. In truth, most breweries are conscious of their impact on the Earth and do as much as possible to help counter their hindrance to the world.

Take a look at Michigan’s largest brewery, Bell’s Brewery Inc., which recently added a huge section to its production facility, but also included many green aspects to the expansion.

“The more you do, the more you think about how your company impacts,” Bell’s Marketing Director Laura Bell said. “When we looked at it, we knew there were things we could change.”

Although Bell’s has taken an overarching sustainable and environmentally friendly approach to its company, many other breweries across Michigan have taken steps to make the world a better place.

Arbor Brewing Company in Ann Arbor recently became the first solar powered brewery in Michigan. Brewery Vivant was awarded LEED certification earlier this year — believed to have been the first commercial brewery in the United States to do so. Meanwhile, the soon-to-be-opened Grand Rapids Brewing Company expects to be Michigan’s first all-organic brewery.

There are several paths when a company chooses to be eco-friendly, and it’s not known which one actually is best for Earth, according to Phil Howard, a professor in the Department of Community, Agriculture, Recreation and Resource Studies at Michigan State University.

Howard has researched the soft drink and beer industries, and is responsible for this chart.

The choices depend on the philosophies of each brewery, Howard said.

The philosophical differences explain why companies vary their sustainable practices in production, ingredients, packaging and personnel treatment.

Wednesday’s article profiles sustainable production, while later this week we’ll profile ingredients and personnel sustainability.