Editor’s Note: This is part two of a three part series. This part profiles sustainable production.
That’s the rate Founders Brewing Co. and Bell’s Brewery Inc., Michigan’s two top breweries by volume, recycle. When the state’s heavy hitters in the beer industry set a standard like that, it starts to trickle down and pay dividends.
In Bell’s case, as the company grew, the more it felt it was leaving its mark on the community. In the midst of a growth explosion — all the way to a capacity of more than 500,000 barrels today — Bell’s had a recycle rate of 50 percent in 2008.
“You think about the company, wanting to have longevity,” Bell’s Marketing Director Laura Bell said. “It’s a recognition that we’re part of this community, we’re a part of Michigan and we want to make sure we lessen the impact.”
Although it’s nice for companies to say they’re doing the environment good by using sustainable practices, it also benefits the companies bottom line.
While it seems almost as though theirs a subculture to the brewing community to be Earth friendly, President and CEO of Founders Mike Stevens said its not capped to brewers.
“Industries as a whole are catching on,” Stevens said. “It’s smart business. It’s taking care of the community and environment in which you do business.”
In one end, out the other
Stevens’ partner, Dave Engbers, joked that Founders practices sustainability by burning all their styrofoam.
But in reality, Founders recycles 93 percent of everything that goes into the building.
Bell’s reports the same figure as a landfill diversion rate.
It helps that the spent grain goes back to local farmers to feed livestock, a practice many breweries follow.
In Bell’s new production facility, the steam is collected and used to heat the next phase of the process. Founders will look to do a similar practice.
Bell’s factory is located on a large geothermal field, which allows for easy temperature control, as does its large Green roof. The facility is also fitted with a natural light system, which automates the lights to replicate daylight with the aid of skylights — even when dark, workers aren’t bombarded by harsh fluorescent light.
Founders recently started a sustainability committee to seek out what more they could do to be green.
“We’re very aware of it,” Stevens said. “It’s an initiative we’re getting very serious about and don’t have much of a past with, but we’re already on it.”
But it’s always been something Stevens and Engbers strived to do for the community.
“We’ve done it for a long time,” Engbers said. “It’s one thing to do it, but we’ve never used it as a marketing ploy, we’ve just done it because it’s the right thing to do.”
Powered by sun
When Matt and Rene Greff started Arbor Brewing Co., or ABC, in Ann Arbor, they were always community first.
But this summer, that attitude took a whole new look when they opened up as the first brewery East of the Rockies that was solar powered.
“This is kind of a nice scene of personal, philosophical and economic ideals in concurrence,” Matt Greff said. “It is a direct reflection of personal goals of being environmentally friendly, but we had a business to run as well.”
With the financial aspect unknown, the Greffs had an energy audit done by the Downtown Development Authority and the Michigan School of Natural Resources.
As it turned out, the project will pay itself back in eight to 10 years. With greater control over energy costs and a geothermal storage facility, it saves about $3,000 a month, while raising their loan payment about $2,000.
The DDA, with its Energy Grant Program, provided a free energy audit and up to $20,000 project rebates to companies that implemented the audits. ABC implemented the program and received a $20,000 grant, $10,000 interest free loan and a 30 percent tax credit, along with more incentives from DTE Energy.
ABC’s other brewery, The Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti, also completed a $250,000 Green Brewery Project, which includes a solar and geothermal technologies.
“We’re a part of a bigger community and it’s important that we’re being environmentally concious,” Matt Greff said. “We’re really proud to be able to show off a project that it as good for the environment as it is for the bottom line.”