I dare you to find a group of business owners that are more willing and eager to make their businesses sustainable than craft brewers. I’ll even up the stakes: I’ll double dog dare you. I feel confident you will come up with nothing.
And in that phylum of sustainable-minded entrepreneurs, New Belgium Brewing probably sits atop the rest. The latest tree-hugging New Belgium news: The Fort Collins-based brewery has received the highest certification level possible from the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) for its waste reduction efforts, gaining platinum recognition.
The certification provides a third-party perspective on how effectively the brewery reduces, reuses and recycles waste. Businesses with a 90 percent waste reduction rate can apply for the certification. New Belgium has exceeded this rate since it began tracking the data more than 10 years ago and is currently diverting 99.9 percent year to date.
“Being environmental stewards has been important to New Belgium since day one, 25 years ago, and our efforts toward mitigating and managing our waste are a key component of this stewardship,” said Nick Ampe, environmental health specialist at New Belgium. “USZWBC certification provides third-party perspective for our continuous improvement efforts, and participation in the fledgling program lends a platform for highlighting the environmental as well as economic benefits of comprehensive waste management for a business.”
New Belgium scored 69 out of 80 points across categories such as Reduce, Redesign, Zero Waste Purchasing, Leadership and Innovation, with highest scores falling in the categories of Reduce, Reuse and Zero Waste Purchasing. Here are seven examples of New Belgium’s efforts:
- Over the years, New Belgium has phased out paperboard dividers from all bottled beer packages, reducing the amount of paperboard the brewery uses by more than 460 tons annually.
- New Belgium carried out an exhaustive waste audit of more than 500 waste collection points across the facility, identifying best management practices and end-of-life scenarios for each material.
- More than 99.9 percent of the waste generated from brewery operations is diverted from the landfill. Most recently, an industrial composting application was identified for some heavy, organic material at the brewery’s process water treatment plant which previously could not be composted, further improving upon the waste diversion ratio.
- Care is taken to avoid disposable products across the brewery, from the employee kitchen’s dishware and utensils, to the use of reusable dunnage for shipping, and the reuse of malt supersacks and bottlecap octobins for recycling collection.
- The brewery advocates for continued advancements in recycling infrastructure and viability for its product packaging, most recently co-founding the Glass Recycling Coalition. This coalition supports improvements in glass recycling rates which continue to be low in many parts of the country, including New Belgium’s home states of Colorado and North Carolina. As proponents of the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility, the brewery strives to hold itself accountable for ensuring its product packagings’ end of life is in a recycling stream.
- New Belgium co-workers donate time to zero waste actions, such as organized river cleanups and regular trail cleanups on an adopted trail near the brewery in Ft. Collins, Colo.
- Purchasers across the organization use comprehensive sustainable purchasing guidelines, and all purchasers convene annually to share best practices and ensure sustainable sourcing.
New Belgium’s Platinum designation will last for three years, at which time the brewery will reapply for certification.