Greetings, and a belated Happy New Year from the sustainability crew here at New Belgium. As 2013 came to a close, we found ourselves toying with an idea we never dreamed that we’d seriously entertain… making a new year’s resolution to lose some weight. Cliché, right? In all seriousness, minimizing our environmental impact is a resolution that we are always working toward, and slimming down our packaging is one piece of that puzzle. So starting right now, we’re going to forego dessert (except for a nice glass of Le Terroir) and commit to losing a few tons in 2014.
First off, we’re looking at dropping some weight from our 24-packs of bottles by doing away with the packages’ paperboard dividers. We’ve been steadily engineering dividers out of our various bottled beer packages over the past few years, having already removed them from our 12-packs, folly packs, and 22-oz 12-packs. By removing dividers from those packages, we are seeing an annual savings of roughly 417 tons of material and an estimated $720,000 based on 2013 production.
If you laid all of those dividers that we did not have to use in 2013 end to end, you could make a line all the way from the brewery’s doors in Fort Collins to Russia (or Brazil or Iceland, depending upon which direction you head). You read that right ... Russia. The 24-pack revamp is the final paperboard divider project on the docket, and will remove an additional estimated 41 tons of material from our packaging in 2014.
A second new year’s resolution in the packaging world is to further refine our packaging reduction goals. As the saying goes, you can’t manage what you don’t measure, and we are working hard to assess all materials in our supply chain and set appropriate goals to benchmark our progress. A supply chain is a complex organism and many factors must be weighed in to our decision-making as we strive to reduce our footprint – from product attributes (like recycled content, weight and durability) to vendor sustainability practices (social responsibility, material shipping and sourcing, etc.) to full life-cycle analysis.
Speaking of product life-cycle, we are believers in the concept of Extended Producer Responsibility, which argues that the manufacturer of a product should be responsible for its end of life, including designing for recyclability and supporting policy which increases recycling rates. In fact, New Belgium’s very own Katie Wallace recently joined the board of directors at Recycling Reinvented, an organization which is championing efforts toward increased packaging recycling rates in the U.S.
Stay tuned for more progress on our efforts toward packaging sustainability, and be on the lookout for our updated packaging reduction goals which we'll be posting on our packaging page soon. We know that transparency and honesty are important characteristics in any authentic sustainability conversation, and we love having this opportunity to share our journey with you. Three cheers for kicking this joyous New Year off on the right foot!