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Is Your Beer Green?

May 06, 2014

There is a lot of pressure from consumers on big companies these days to go green. So why has the environment been a big green blind spot in brewery marketing?

The Canadian beer industry is known for their model of recycling efficiency, however, the vast amount of water used in the manufacturing process and large amounts of fuel required for transporting, are not to be bragged about to advocates of green living.

It wasn't until this year that Canadian beer brands have begun to step up.

In April, Labatt's Alexander Keith's beer unveiled its Keith's Green Initiative, whereby drinkers who purchased a specially marked case of the brew and then logged on to the brand's Facebook page could help drive a total of $75,000 in donations to one of four environmental charities.

Next week Molson Canadian will wrap up its Red Leaf Project, a summer-long volunteerism initiative involving shoreline cleanups, tree planting, and the restoration of urban parks across the country.

Many large breweries claim to be waiting for market research to come in, to evaluate what is important to their consumers before making any drastic changes. However, a number of small craft brands have already made deep commitments, driven as much by their handmade aesthetic as by admiration for green heroes.

In downtown Toronto, the operations of Steam Whistle Brewing use a host of environmentally friendly services, including the alternative energy provider Bullfrog Power, deep lake water cooling provided by Enwave, steam heating, and a proprietary green bottle of thick glass that can be refilled up to twice as many times as the industry's standard bottle. In 2007, it began telling customers about these green initiatives. And a few months ago, it introduced a new truck to its vintage fleet, a 1958 Chevy Apache dubbed "Retro Electro," that had been retrofitted to run on electric power.

Some U.S.beer companies are going even further in embracing sustainable practices. In the fall of 2009, a pair of entrepreneurs opened Mother Earth Brewing in Kinston, a city of about 23,000 in eastern North Carolina whose downtown needed some tender loving care. They bought a few city blocks and renovated the existing buildings with a sharp focus on the environment, using a combination of blue jean insulation and soy-based spray foam insulation, installing a six-kilowatt solar array on the roof that provides enough energy to power their tap room, and constructing a cistern that captures rainwater for use in irrigation, toilets, and watering plants.

So the future of beer is starting to look greener. Hopefully, the trends of those currently pursuing environmentally friendly initiatives will encourage others to do the same.

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