Recently the effects of climate change are becoming tangible, with wilder weather and unseasonal conditions throughout the world becoming commonplace. Greenhouse gasses have been wreaking havoc on our oceans, skies and landscapes for decades and the burgeoning concern of environmental accountability is ever present.
So we thought we’d tell you about the challenges faced as a microbrewery to keep things green and the kind of things that can be done to overcome them, keeping our contribution to the Scottish carbon footprint as small as possible.
The biggest contribution to carbon based emissions for the brewing industry is logistics. This comes from transport of goods to and from the brewery, a fundamental necessity. As fossil fuels are still used to run transport vehicles, it is impossible to have zero transport related carbon emissions, however the sure fire way to reduce this impact is to act efficiently and to source all produce from the UK where possible, the more local the better.
Using local distributors and wholesalers will consolidate transportation, and planning logistics carefully to deliver in bulk by location - focussing on bars closest to a brewery - will also reduce bulk emissions. Where possible, the use of Eco-Kegs and e-casks, which are one way delivery kegs and casks designed to reduce emissions and waste carbon, can reduce the emissions of delivery for any one brewery.
Ecokegs are even made from high value recyclable PET and HDPE plastics, which can be sent back to the supplier and reused or recycled locally. For empty containers, we pick these up when they are on or near a delivery route. This doesn't just help cut down on carbon emissions, but is happily also common business sense as these measures also generally help reduce transport costs, which is probably why it's common practice with most breweries.
Breweries require a vast amount of energy to run effectively. A hot liquor tank must be heated after all, and a cold room must be kept cold. Any effort to conserve this energy is useful, saving on energy expenditure and wastage. Energy efficiency is particularly pertinent because a lot of modern grid energy is produced using fossil fuels, although Scotland is a prominent world leader in changing this trend, with 60% of the country’s energy usage being derived from renewables.
To this end, a brewery can use a heat exchanger to recycle heat produced from the kettle during the brewing process to heat water for the next brew, while simultaneously cooling the wort (beer prior to fermentation) to a reasonable fermenting temperature. Other ways of conserving energy include producing your own, as has been proven with Rocky Ridge brewery in Australia implementing solar panels to power their brewery.
In brewing we are fortunate that so much of our used ingredients has onward potential. Malt, hops, excess beer, everything can be used. Spent hops are composted to use as mulch and spent malt is used to feed livestock. The tricky parts are cost effective replacements for single use plastics, such as keystones and shives for which we still need a solution.
Shredded waste paper can be used for packaging, reuse of incoming packaging for outgoing products is an easy way to stay sustainable and the use of biodegradable plastics at events is a decidedly positive alternative to their oil based counterparts.
Circular Economy & Areas of Growth
There are some byproducts from other industries we can use in a veritably proactive fashion. This includes waste from our own business and even from others, as the case has been in our partnership with Aulds the bakers. They have an excess of bread rolls which can be used to make beer, which we have done to create our Hardtack blonde beer. There has been some promising development in recent times regarding the production and use of sustainable materials in the brewing industry.
There is a brewery in America making can ring holders, dog chews and other things out of spent grain, and an interesting project in the UK held by Cuantech turning the common byproduct of prawn shells in the seafood industry into packaging with natural antimicrobial properties, but these steps are just the beginning.
It is clear to see that the difficulty with being environmentally conscientious as a business is that the two agendas don’t always run in parallel. What is best for the planet isn't always what's best for the wallet, which is difficult for any business. What businesses need in order to become more environmentally aware is a financial incentive to use greener methods of running the business, and there’s no better incentive than that given by the consumer. If being environmentally friendly will boost sales, it will become a priority for every business.