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  • We support policies that protect clean water, and here's why

    Hey everyone,

    Nic here. This is a special guest post from New Belgium coworker Andrew Lemley, who's been working hard for quite a while now with legislators, authorities and concerned citizens on a proposed rule change to what are considered "Waters of the United States." Clean water is an important issue to us here at New Belgium, and the foundation on which great beer is brewed — but I'll let Andrew explain further:

    What’s a WOTUS? (read woah-tus)

    WOTUS is an acronym for “Waters of the United States.” It’s the definition of which surface water (lakes, rivers, etc.) can be federally protected to make sure our country has a top notch water supply. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Army Corps of Engineers are working to clarify which waters are in this category. At New Belgium we think this is a good idea.


    We care deeply about clean rivers, lakes and streams. We need them to make beer. Everyone needs them to hydrate. Outdoorsy folks need them to kayak, fish or skinny dip. The proposed WOTUS rule would expand which water is able to be regulated by the EPA and would include headwaters, tributaries and other waters connected to larger rivers. This clarification makes common sense: water bodies that are connected to rivers should be safeguarded like those rivers themselves.

    Clean water is a part of our triple bottom line business model. Crafting great beer while caring for the planet and doing what is right is how we operate. Our journey has led us to take steps to reduce our own impact on the water supply. We’ve built an onsite process wastewater treatment plant. We’ve cut water use. We give philanthropic dollars to nonprofits engaged in water conservation. We do what we can to honor the environment in our own process and philanthropy. We also know that good policies that protect water can do more than we could ever do on our own.

    The next time you open a beer while you watch the sun set over a clean lake or hear the river rushing by your campsite, raise your glass (or can or bottle) to the WOTUS.

    If you want to dig deeper and find out how you can help, visit our friends at the Natural Resources Defense Council. They have all kinds of great info and can help you speak out for clean water too. 

    Cheers — Andrew


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  • We like beer. But do you know what we love more?

    You.

    *blush* 

     

    Yes, brewing and bottling a perfect beer is one of our favorite things in the whole world. But it isn’t actually the ultimate reason for our existence (though it is darn fun and ain’t nobody here complainin’). New Belgium is on this big blue planet because we care about life (check your pulse - that includes you!) and we want to do our part to make living on Earth crazy awesome. If Michael Jackson just started singing “Heal the world, make it a better place” inside your head… just know you’re not the only one, okay?

    NBB’s Company Purpose: To manifest our love and talent by crafting our customers' favorite brands and proving business can be a force for good.

    All the fine folks at New Belgium work hard to make sure that everything that goes into your beer helps to create a world that you want to live in. We strive to bring benefit to the communities where our beer is sold, to the rivers and soil that deliver our ingredients, and to the loving hands that craft your beer. Because, goodness only knows, they certainly benefit us. But business owners please note: this isn’t just a charity case. This is good for business. New Belgium knows that we are profitable, not in spite of our social and environmental efforts, but because of them. By gifting ownership in the company and investing in the happiness of our coworkers, the best of the best join our team and they give their hearts. A 93% retention rate is good for the bottom line. By reducing our water use and donating money to the research and repair of the Colorado River, we are increasing the likelihood that we’ll have clean and abundant water for many generations. Preserving our #1 ingredient is also good for business.

    A reality that still gets me a little teary-eyed is this: we aren’t alone. What we’ve been doing since Day 1 at New Belgium is now a movement. And that movement is B Corp. Certified B Corps are over 1,000 strong and counting, including companies like Rally Software, Ben & Jerry’s, Etsy, Plum Organics, and Patagonia. We are all businesses who have opted out of sacrificing health and well-being for the sake of profits and profits alone. We are all businesses who know that we do well by doing good. Each of us passes through a most rigorous certification that measures our beneficial practices, so when you see that “B” inside a circle, you know it’s legit. (Check out our score, and if you’d like to see if your business makes the cut, you can take the free assessment online.)

    By banding together with these like-minded businesses, we make it clear we are not accidental and isolated successes, but rather we are the new wave of business, stating loud and clear that a whole-system perspective is essential in the corporate world and love and kindness drive a healthy bottom line.

    Thanks for being a part of this crazy journey with us. You belong here. You are our tribe, along with the barley farmers, the microbes in the soil, the fish in the rivers, the bartenders, and the recyclers. We are all in this together, so let’s continue to “B the Change” and make the world a better place (…for you and for me and the entire human race!).

    Big hugs.

    Bring it in.

    Always and foreverrrr,

    -        The Walrus

    Can’t get enough? Check out these B Corp reads from The New Yorker and The New York Times.


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  • Live Long and Report Stuff

    Did you know that scientists have proven you can live longer if you set goals for yourself? For real, just set some goals, give yourself a reason to get out of bed in the morning, and you’ll live to be at least 106.*

    Speaking of goals, we set a number of them here at the brewery. Not only do these goals help keep us young and healthy, but they also keep the New Belgium Mothership steered in the right direction. What are these goals, you ask? Well, they run the gamut, covering every area of our operations and values. Some of our goals are about making world class beers, and some are about making the Tour de Fat the most wondrous bicycle carnival you’ll ever ride into. Some of our goals are about getting the new brewery built in Asheville, and some are about reducing our natural resource usage.

    While it’s good to set goals and to track your progress toward them, it’s also quite good to share that special journey with others. And this, my friends, is why we publish a Sustainability Report once a year. It’s our way of sharing our successes and lessons learned, and of ensuring transparency and authenticity in our quest to be a sustainable business. The report is short, sweet and to the point, because we respect your time and because we hate killing trees.** Take a look at it (right here) and let us know what you think! 

    Cheers -- Ginger

    *This statement has not been verified by anyone, ever. 

    **For those of you who really love nerding out, there's tons more information on our Sustainability page


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  • Driving trucks and breaking hearts

    So we just did a photo shoot at the brewery. And this isn’t for your typical tasty beer pic; this photo shoot featured some very handsome men and some very sexy, fuel-efficient vehicles. What’s more, it was done in the name of greenhouse gas reductions. Random yet intriguing, no?!


    Both the fellas and the wheels in this particular photo shoot happened to be from our Brewery Direct Service (BDS) team, which is the group of New Belgium coworkers who deliver our beer to bars, restaurants & liquor stores all over our hometown turf of Fort Collins. Not only do these hard-working folks sling countless kegs up narrow staircases and down dark alleys day in and day out, but they are also environmental ninjas who have reduced their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by a whopping 53% per mile since 2006! All this while selling A LOT more beer! Now that calls for a celebration, boys. Might as well jump!

       

    “How is this possible???,” you ask with your eyes wide and hands shaking in the air. Well, for one, our BDS buds are all masterful eco-drivers (Did you know smart driving can improve fuel efficiency 33%? ßclick that link to learn some tricks for yourself!). High efficiency driving pairs incredibly well with high efficiency vehicles and the BDS fleet is made up of a few straight trucks (like small tractor trailers) used to deliver beer, and a handful of small passenger vehicles for running around to various accounts to do quality & service check-ins. So we’ve got two Kenworth hybrid electric delivery trucks driving your beer around town, plus five Prius hybrid cars and two Nissan Leaf plug-in electric cars! That’s some line-up. (sidenote: You’re welcome to plug in your own electric car outside our tasting room while you enjoy a taster… jus sayin.)

    Do you know what else we have?  BIKES. Are you surprised? No… probably not. New Belgium’s love affair with the bicycle is long-lived and well storied. But you know what might surprise you? That BDSer, Erik “Dobber” Nilstoft, is doing his sales routes (between 20-30 miles a day) on his bike! We’ll be posting our “DOBBER RADAR” to the website soon, so keep a sharp eye out.


    In the meantime, if you’re voyaging to beer mecca in Fort Collins, cheers your beers to your BDS friends for doing a super hero job of saving money, saving the world, and getting that cold beer from the brewery to the bar stool in which you sit! 

    Ride On -- Ginger

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  • Vote For the World You Want to Live in...

    It's National Voter Registration Day! Time is running thin on registering to vote, in Colorado the deadline is October 9th. Today is the day we make sure everyone is on the path to voting in this year's election. Together, with Patagonia, Vote the Environment, Wilco, and many others, New Belgium is hoping you vote for the world you want to live in. 

    This is a non-partisan effort to put the environment on the to-do list of American voters. Here is a nice film I lifted from VoteTheEnvironment.org:



    The environment is a very important part of our New Belgium story, environmental stewardship has been part of our Core Values and Beliefs since the day we were founded. We want to lovingly care for the planet that sustains us. We try to model joyful environmentalism through our commitment to relationships, continuous improvement, and the camaraderie (and cheer) of beer. So, the Vote the Environment campaign made a lot of sense to us, and we hope it makes a lot of sense to you...

    There are lots of people trying to get you to sign up to vote, so make sure you get it done. Head Count is out in this world doing the hard work to get it done too. They're reaching lots of people, and they want to reach you. Want to get the ball rolling on registering to vote? Here's the link: Head Count.  Or maybe you want to do some good and volunteer... Here's that link: VOLUNTEER!  

    And, to be better informed on the environmental records of our politicians the League of Conservation Voters has put together a scorecard for the 112th Congress to help with our forthcoming votes. It's pretty enlightening to see the choices of those we elected. Want to see the environmental scorecard of your Congressional members? Here's the link: League of Conservation Voters.  

    And then, for those social media buffs out there, remember to hashtag #becauseilove. Example: I vote the environment #becauseilove brewing with great Colorado water!  Or: I vote the environment #becauseilove skiing the Never Summers! Here's a link to make it super easy... It's a big ol' Twitter campaign to let the world know that the world is important to us, and we want to vote for people that it's important to as well. This is a big election, and whatever side you're on, it's high time we Vote the Environment!


    Yours in voting the environment,


    -JUICEBOX




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  • WHAT IS WASTE, ANYWAY?

     If you were to put all the ants in the world in one pile and all the humans in the world in another pile, which pile would be bigger? The pile of ants- duh! And yet, surprisingly, our shovels aren’t colliding with any underground ant landfills and we don’t find ourselves stubbing our toes on tiny ant smokestacks. In nature, one creature’s waste is another’s food. 

     

     At New Belgium, we think that’s a smart and classy idea so we work hard to find a home for brewery byproducts. This means that we’ve been able to divert 99.9% of our waste from the landfill! And the cherry on top? Our Waste Diversion program actually generates revenue by the end of the day. Our full-time Waste Diversion Specialist, Alie, put together this handy dandy 2011 report and we thought you might like to take a peek. Enjoy!

     

     

     

     

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  • More for the conversation on cans and bottles.

     


    As a craft brewer who fills both glass bottles and aluminum cans with delicious beers, we inevitably receive questions (and have our own) regarding the environmental impact of each container. A comprehensive, unbiased study comparing the total environmental impact of glass bottles to that of aluminum cans does not exist. So we see a lot of guessing going on out there and many of those guesses are being stated as though they were ultimate facts.

    Below are some questions we hear often along with answers based on the research we’ve done. Remember, though, that since a comprehensive study has never been conducted, we don’t really know which container is ultimately environmentally superior.


    Which container is sustainable?

    Neither! Both containers have a net negative impact on the environment.


    Okay, well which container comes closest to being sustainable?

    With the data we have reviewed, no clear winner.

    The beginning of the lifecycle of the aluminum can (mining of bauxite, smelting of aluminum) has a larger impact than glass. But later in their lifecycles, the glass bottle has the larger impact (heavier to transport and more difficult to recycle). At the end of the day it’s possible they even out.

    The best container is the one that ends up in the recycling bin.

    Both aluminum and glass can be recycled an infinite number of times and doing so has many benefits:

    - Reducing impact from mining virgin material (The mining of bauxite for aluminum is highly toxic to the land due to the chemicals used in the process. The mining of the materials needed to make glass is also destructive, but less so).

    - Reducing energy required to melt virgin material (melting recycled material requires less heat: Recycled aluminum uses 95% less energy and recycled glass uses 30% less energy.)

    Improving the U.S. economy

    - Americans landfill $2 billion worth of aluminum every year!

    - Create more jobs (recycling offers jobs in the U.S. while mining occurs outside the U.S.)

     

    But I thought cans are more sustainable because they are lighter to ship?

    It is true that the transportation of cans, since being lighter and stacking better, requires less fuel and is therefore more ecofriendly than the transportation of bottles. However, this is only one little segment of the entire lifecycle of the container and not enough info to make a verdict. It would be like saying, “Well, I got an ‘A’ in my freshman history class, so that means I graduated college with a 4.0 GPA.” We wish! But remember, we also had calculus classes and biochemistry and perhaps the occasional hangover, and so most of us didn’t achieve A’s throughout the lifecycle of our college career. Just like our GPA depends on several steps throughout our college life, the sustainability of one container or another depends on the many steps throughout its own lifecycle (from mining all the way to disposal).

     

    But I thought glass bottles were more sustainable because the mining of bauxite to make aluminum was so destructive and toxic?

    The same notions apply here as to the question above. Yes, mining of bauxite has giant ecological impacts that are arguably greater than those of mining sand for glass. But, again, it’s only one segment of the story.



    What can beer drinkers do to make a meaningful difference?

    - Recycle your cans and bottles.

    - If you are at a bar or restaurant that doesn’t offer recycling, encourage them to do so. If they don’t know where to start, tell them they can find recycling facilities here: http://earth911.com/ or request a meeting with their local waste hauler.

    - Little nerd note: Glass is difficult to pull out at a sorting facility, so throwing it in your commingled bin doesn’t ensures it will be recycled. Implementing a glass-only recycling bin will give the glass the best chance of being recycled. And, of course, the glass needs to stay glass-only until it reaches the recycler!

     

    How can my love for drinking beer have the absolute lowest impact today?

    Drink draft beer out of a reusable cup.

     

    What is New Belgium Brewing doing to make a difference?

    - Conducting and commissioning studies that help us to better understand the environmental impact of our beverage containers and our opportunities to improve it.

    A greenhouse gas (GHG) study was commissioned in 2011 comparing the GHG emissions of the two containers. ALWAYS KEEP IN MIND that GHG emissions are ONLY ONE part of the story. Not considered in this study are toxicity, water quality and quantity, biodiversity, human health and total ecosystem health. The results of this study, while important to know, are not an absolute verdict on these packages, only a segment of the story. The results of the study showed aluminum cans having fewer GHG emissions than glass bottles. However, the main contributor to this difference was the fact that factories melting glass are getting their power from fossil fuels (high GHG emissions) and factories smelting the aluminum are strategically  sourcing their power from hydro (which requires reservoirs & dams, but avoids the GHG emissions from fossil fuels). Of course, hydro power looks great through the lens of GHG emissions. However, generating hydro power requires rivers to be diverted and dammed – a process that has severe ecological effects not accounted for in GHG emissions studies and a process that New Belgium has actively opposed in Colorado and throughout the U.S.

    - Decreasing the weight of our bottles, therefore reducing resource consumption and the impact of bottle transportation.

    - We are helping to lead an industry-wide effort initiated by Alcoa (Aluminum Company of America) to increase recycling of consumer packaging and printed materials 20% by 2015. This is a HUGE step.

    - Through our participation in Future500, we are monitoring potential legislation around packaging called Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), a strategy that “uses financial incentives to encourage manufacturers to design environmentally-friendly products by holding producers responsible for the costs of managing their products at end of life.”

    - Striving for strokes of genius that will land a revolutionary packaging idea into our laps!

     


    Your friends,

    -the NBB Team Sustainability

    PS: Check back next month for our thoughts on BPA

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  • Sourcing local ingredients at New Belgium

    Have you ever wondered what your favorite companies are doing to support your favorite local communities?  It is a common question in this growing era of conscious consumerism.  Skye, a beer fan in Colorado, recently posted her question on Facebook in an effort to find out what New Belgium was doing to support our local community.  We thought you might be interested in this topic as well, so we are reposting it here on our blog.  Read on!

     

    Skye:  An interesting point was brought to my attention lately: New Belgium does not use any local ingredients. Being the "localest" of our local beers, I strongly urge New Belgium to at least look into buying locally grown grains for at least part of their supply. Grant Family Farms would be a great one to look in to!

     

    NBB:  Hi Skye - thanks for sharing your voice!  Here are a few of the local sources from whom we purchase goods: organic wheat from Southern Colorado, malted barley from across Colorado, glass bottles from Windsor, tap handles from Denver, t-shirts from our awesome Fort Collins friends at Go West... just to name a few.  As a part of our social and environmental stewardship efforts, we try to buy as much as we can locally.  When it comes to beer ingredients, though, it can be challenging.

     

    BARLEY: Before we can buy the barley, it has to be malted.  Malting facilities are quite large in scale in order to be efficient.  So one malting facility will process the grains for many farmers.  Brewers then purchase the malted barley, not directly from the farmer, but from the maltster.  This makes it difficult for a brewery to pick & choose their farmers as the grains are all combined at the malting level.  Coors is the only large malting facility in CO, and a little micro-maltster (Colorado Malting Co) is in Alamosa.  We do purchase some product from Colorado Malting Co, but they are quite small.

     

    HOPS: For most breweries, New Belgium included, hops also need to be processed and then pelletized.  Again, this requires an expensive processing facility that is typically feasible only at a larger scale, processing hops from many farmers.  Unfortunately, no such operation exists in Colorado.  We donated $20,000 to fund the graduate work of an awesome CSU student, Ali Hamm, to research & develop the local hop industry in CO, but it has seen some setbacks due to fluctuations in hop prices among other factors.  One farm was producing organic hops in Paonia for a couple of years, and while they were in business we purchased their hops (although we couldn't do that regularly as the hops weren't pelletized).  If you ever tried a glass of Century Ale at the Town Pump, though, you were drinking CO hops!

     

    In short, the processing necessities put a wrench in farmer-direct efforts, and that's not something we can avoid.  A local farmer could ship his/her hops to Washington for processing or another state for malting and then ship them back to Colorado, but that significantly increases the carbon footprint of the product and that is not something we're comfortable doing.  You mentioned Grant Family Farms, and while they are a great local farm, I'm not aware of them offering malted barley or pelletized hops (which are the products we purchase).  Certainly if they were to ever offer those products to our quality standards, we would be talking to them right away!

     

    Keep up the good advocacy efforts for local products on the Front Range, Skye.  We're right there with you and are always looking for an opportunity to support it.

    -          Katie  ~Sustainability Specialist

     

    Skye:  Thanks Katie, I really appreciate your reply!  It is also good to hear how much you do purchase from the local community.  I'll drink my Fat Tire even more happily from here on!  :o)

     

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  • 2008 Water Data

    We're happy to report a reduction in our water use ratio during 2008.  Down to 3.8 barrels of water for every barrel of beer we make.

     2005-2009 water use ratio2005-2009 water use

    So, if one barrel ends up in the beer, what happens to the other 2.8?  Well, approximately 2 are cleaned at our on-site process water treatment plant.  That water is then further cleaned by the City and returned to the Poudre River, our watershed, for downstream users.  The 0.8 is lost to evaporation and spent grain.

    Why the improvement in 2008?  Optimized cleaning regimes, fixed water usage spread over more barrels, and less irrigation, we think.  We don't actually have all of the uses inside the building submetered, so our strategy to date has been to design equipment and processes well and to be conscious of our consumption.  Given that the reported brewing industry average water use is 5 or 6 barrels to one, it's working so far.

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  • Waste Not, Want Not

    Here's what our overall waste picture looked like in 2008:

    2008 waste data

    But we don't like to include spent grain, which goes to a local cattle farmer, in our waste data because you lose granularity on everything else.  So, here's what the data looks like without it:

    2008 waste sans spent grain

    This is information we can use.  In 2007, we set a waste stream diversion goal (not including spent grain) of 95%.  So, we're well on our way.  Last year, we reported a diversion rate of 73.3%.  Several reasons for the dramatic improvement: (1) a new sorting station in the kitchen, with a much more pleasant compost receptacle, as well as composting crocks throughout the offices; (2) a six-sigma glass project in packaging that reduced glass waste by 39% (but glass is recycled, so the decrease would actually hurt the ratio); and (3) according to the data, a 67% reduction in landfilled waste.  We can't brag about that reduction though because in 2007 we had to use weight estimates from the EPA Standard Volume to Weight Conversion Factors.  In 2008, Gallegos, our trash hauler, helped us get actual weights for most of our containers, most of the time.  Gallegos can't weigh dumpsters, so our EH&S coworkers did it manually with a forklift scale.  They compiled months of actual weights to get a common average weight.  There's so much data collection in sustainability work!  

    Finally, here's what is in our compost and recycling:

    2008 recyc data

    What would be really useful is knowing what goes to the landfill, but that's data I'm not anxious to collect.  Actually, we do have some idea.  Much of it could be recycled or composted.  Supersacks from speciality grains that we can't buy in bulk are also going in the landfill because they are a blended mix of paper & plastic.  We are reducing our use of supersacks and searching for alternatives to landfilling.  At the end of 2008, we eliminated the need for supersacks for organic grain by installing additional bulk grain silos.  We are also talking to some companies who might  be able to use discarded supersacks as in input for their products. 

    Three last notes:  BBRP in the recycling graph stands for the Brown Bottle Recycling Program.  Read about Rob the Bicycle Courier picking up bottles from local bars and restaurants and bringing them back to the brewery, so that they can be turned into new bottles on page 10 of our 2007 report.  And sludge, shown in the first graph, comes from our process water treatment plant, and is land applied for soil conditioning.  Check out the 2007 report (p. 14) to learn about Oberon, who just completed their pilot project here to turn sludge into fish food.  They are ready for commercial scale production!  Finally, we are researching ways to use our spent grain on site to create energy. 

    Next week, utility data.  Remember, if you're a stakeholder--and really, who isn't?--we warm to your involvement in the reporting process!

    Cheers,

    Jenn

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