A Snapshot of our Footprint

Feb 28, 2014

As you may have heard, our #SnapshotWheat Tour is hitting the road this week, travelling the countryside like a modern-day Woody Guthrie. This brings to mind the fact that sometimes our beer also has to trek across the country in order to find its way to your home. Shipping of finished product is one piece of our carbon footprint pie, and that is one pie that we spend a lot of time thinking about. (Imperial Coffee Chocolate Stout pecan pie is probably a close second).

Over the years we have worked to measure and manage our carbon footprint. Back in the 90s we started with an environmental audit of the brewery itself, and then in 2006 we took the leap into the world of holistic greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting to get a better grasp on all upstream and downstream emissions (from the growing of our barley to the end of our bottles’ lives). In 2008 we commissioned a lifecycle assessment of a 6-pack of Fat Tire, which helped us to have a clearer and broader understanding of the emissions associated with making and delivering our beer. Our accounting methodology has been refined over the years, and we follow the most widely used and globally accepted guidelines for GHG accounting (WRI’s GHG Protocol and BIER’s Beverage Sector Guidance). We won’t dig too far into the details here, but let’s take a look at some of the biggest contributors just to give you a snapshot (heh) of our carbon footprint:

  • Glass is number 1! The mining of the raw materials, manufacturing of the bottles and the transport of the bottles to us here at the brewery accounts for a whopping 38 percent of our total carbon footprint. This number is so high because we sell so many more bottles than cans. However, cans are a big source of GHG emissions as well (check out this write up about cans and bottles to learn more). Fortunately, we are able to source our 12oz bottles from a plant right down the road (about 20 miles away), which helps to slightly reduce the bottles’ piece of the pie.
  • Malted Barley is #2. The growing of barley accounts for about 18 percent of our carbon footprint, and when combined with the malting of the barley and transit of the malt to the brewery, the beloved grain ends up contributing about 25% of our footprint. Since first discovering how big a contributor to our footprint the barley & malting are, we’ve been spending some time visiting with our maltsters and farmers to understand any opportunities that might be out there for reducing barley’s environmental impact. We also did a follow up study to our Fat Tire life cycle assessment to look more closely at agricultural practices. We’ve learned a lot about this wonderful crop, and we’ve also learned that maltsters are some of the coolest people out there!
  • Distribution and Retail follow up to round out the main contributors to our footprint. Distribution of the beer from our brewery to your local store’s shelves accounts for roughly 10 percent of our carbon emissions, and the refrigerated storage at retail points of sale attributes another roughly 9.5 percent. We are going to begin construction on our second brewery in Asheville, North Carolina in a couple months, and we are hopeful to see a positive impact on our carbon footprint once we no longer need to ship so much beer all the way to the east coast.

So what does all of this tell us? Collaboration is key! We are a link in a big, big chain of suppliers, distributors, farmers and consumers. Working together to raise the collective bar of our industry’s impact on the environment has proved to be a fun and rewarding journey for us. We’re setting measurable, appropriate goals around reducing our environmental impact and continuously tracking our progress toward them. With 2006 serving as our baseline (since that is the first year for which we have complete data), we have set a carbon emission reduction goal which we benchmark our progress toward each year. Our GHG Emission goal is to get down to 14kg of CO2e per Hectoliter (HL) of beer by 2015. In 2012, we were at 16 kg/HL, so we’re not too far off, but still have our work cut out for us. We’re still crunching final numbers for 2013. As soon as they’re ready to share, we’ll post them on the Sustainability page.

Thanks for taking the time to learn about our emissions accounting, and please holler at us with questions. We love nerding out about this stuff. 

Cheers! -- Ginger