This was a recipe for success. My local Net Impact chapter was hosting a brewery tour at the popular Yards Brewery in Philadelphia. Net Impact is all about folks making social change via the workplace and their employers. Yards is a popular brewery that has won a batch of awards for its brews. It was an easy decision to go to this event.
The brewing space at Yards was designed to easily accommodate tours such as ours. In our case, the tour’s content was tinged somewhat to emphasize the sustainability aspects of Yards’ brewing process. The beer brewing process (as I recall our tour guide’s description) has ample opportunities incorporate sustainability into the process. Some companies (like Yards) will take more advantage of them than others.
One of the most interesting parts of the tour had to do with ingredients. Yards is akin to manufacturing businesses in that they take inputs (wheat, hops, water, etc), transform them by brewing them into another product (beer), all the while minimizing waste. Most of their hops come from specific areas on the West Coast, but they have also been able to locate some more “local” (closer) hops. One especially interesting aspect of “sustainable” ingredients is being able to use the same (patented) strain of yeast up to 12 times.
At the end of the brewing process, there are often “soggy grains” that Yards can’t use. However, a suburban bison farm and a bakery in Northeast Philadelphia can. The soggy grains go to these business. In turn, Yards serves bison from that bison farm and bread from that bakery on their menu. I thought that this was one of the most creative applications of recycling in a business setting that I had ever heard of. Next time I go to Yards I will need to close the loop on this and taste the bison and bread from the menu.
Like many breweries (but not all), Yards uses brown bottles for its beer. The performance aspect is that the beer keeps better in brown bottles (not exposed to sunlight). The environmental aspect is that the glass has already been recycled before it gets to Yards.
Aside from different aspects of the brewing process, the brewery building itself has some sustainable aspects. For example, one of the reasons Yards did not paint the walls was that they did not want to release any of the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) into the air. Additionally, some parts of the floor are low VOC soy concrete sealed (as opposed to regular concrete sealers). And yes, Yards has chosen to source its power from 100% wind– (see linked post below about buying “wind” or “water” power really means from a customer point of view).
So the Yards brewery tour experience ended up being a winner on several fronts. First, the beer tasted good (I even bought a six pack there). Second, the brewery and the brewing process have some sustainability elements. Third, the Philadelphia chapter of Net Impact created a great event–and I am looking forward to many more.
Can I Really Buy Green Power?