Sustainability: Why Breweries are Choosing to NOT Leave their Marks

If you glance right under the rim of Jackie O’s cans, you’ll see in tiny colorful letters, “sustainably crafted with purpose.” That’s because owner Art Oestrike believes it’s his duty to practice sustainable measures at Jackie O’s and to be a trendsetter in his area by reducing the brewery’s carbon footprint.

Jackie O’s Brewery is in a small town (Athens, Ohio: population 25,000), but it’s also home to a university with students that more than double the size of the local population. That, coupled with the fact that the Athens is part of Appalachia, an economically depressed region, has made Oestrike more conscious of his environmental impact.

Other than 298 solar panels installed in 2016, Oestrike has overseen the installment of radiant floor heating, which uses less energy than traditional radiators. He acknowledges that canning his beer leaves a bigger footprint than bottles, but said that’s made up by the fact that that aluminum is infinitely recyclable. Also, as of 2019, 92 percent of Jackie O’s distributed beer stays in Ohio.

“I see sustainability in a couple different lights,” Oestrike said. “We’re in a very poor area in a college town. We strive to have above-living wage jobs in the area to take care of the people who take care of us.”

Almost 2,000 miles west, two brewery co-founders in Tuscon, Arizona have a similar mindset.

One’s a microbiologist, and the other is a physician.

“Coming from a science background makes it all too-inescapable of what our system of economics is doing to the planet,” said Borderlands Brewing  President Mike Mallozzi, adding that he and co-founder Myles Stone felt a “critical and moral imperative to reduce our impact from the start.”

Borderlands doesn’t have solar panels at all because the property is rented, but it does buy solar energy from a local company.

However, it is looking at installing solar options for the new Voltron Brewing, a brewery jointly formed and owned by both Borderlands and Sentinel Brewing. Voltron is also rented, but the owners are more hopeful to work out a deal with the landlords to install solar panels.

Meanwhile, Borderlands’ green thumb doesn’t stop at buying solar energy. The brewery is a host to a couple of green initiative groups: Green Drinks Tuscon, which has monthly meetings with sustainability activists and environmentalists; and The University of Arizona Carson Scholars Lecture Series, a program dedicated to training the next generation of environmental researchers.

The brewery also collaborated on a co-branded IPA celebrating healthy rivers and advocating for their care. Borderlands also participates in the Arizona SCALE UP Program, which supports local businesses in their efforts to go green.

“The news stories generated by that and our partnership with Audubon Arizona have been a gold-mine of regional and national news stories leading to customer loyalty and brand recognition,” Mallozzi said.

Currently, Flathead Lake Brewing Co., along with the previously mentioned breweries, are participating in an annual competition put on by Brews From the Sun to crown America’s favorite solar craft brewery. Last year, Flathead placed third.

Marketing Manager Sarah Peterson said, “The first nationwide Brews from the Sun competition put on by Solar United Neighbors was a great tool to help us educate more people on the sustainable aspects of our brewery and why we feel that using solar power is an important aspect of our overall goal of being environmentally responsible.”

The brewery had solar panels installed since 2015 when it moved to a bigger building to expand production.

“We continually try to educate our customers and retailers on the sustainable aspects of our brewery, including solar energy. We always ask the question, great beer calls for quality ingredients and quality ingredients require a healthy environment,” Peterson said. “So it should follow that sustainable brewing makes better beer, right?”

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