Katie Wallace, Assistant Director of Sustainability at New Belgium

Last Call by | May 2016 | Issue #112

You’ve never met a group of people more upbeat about environmental efficiency than the staff at New Belgium’s Colorado brewery. It’s embedded in their culture, largely thanks to Katie Wallace, assistant director of sustainability. Stop by Wallace’s panel at the Craft Brewers Conference this month to hear more about innovation in sustainability.

What sustainability strategies is New Belgium implementing? 
Right now, we are exploring a water-reduction strategy that will capture treated water and use it for irrigation and in the cooling towers. We are also modeling out a greenhouse gas reduction strategy. If we are to do our part in helping the planet reach carbon neutral by 2050, what does that entail? [We] hope to have a well-defined plan by the end of this year.

What are some simple strategies for smaller breweries?
1. Track your water, energy and waste data. Set goals to reduce your usage. The Brewers Association will soon be launching a utility data management dashboard that will be made available to members at no cost.

2. Every person you work with—brewers, receptionists, drivers—have their own unique perspective and are an enormous source of innovation. They each see a part of the brewery that you don’t. When you bring everyone into the room and ask for their ideas, I promise you’ll be surprised at least once or twice. This also plants a seed for more mindful water and energy use, which can be a powerful thing.

3. Improving your efficiency with lighting is very affordable these days and the payback can be within a few months. Install natural lighting, like skylights and sun tubes. … Replace traditional bulbs with LEDs. Install sensors that turn lights off [and on] automatically. Audit your lights—which of these really need to be turned on?

4. Find your waste heat and reuse it. Today, we have heat exchangers from the factory. But when Jeff [Lebesch] was brewing his first batches of Fat Tire and Abbey Ale in his basement, he made his own: a tin trashcan sat atop the brew kettle to capture the steam. Underneath the tin can was a coiled copper pipe that tap water passed through. The waste steam from the brew kettle would pre-heat the incoming water that would be used in the mash tun for the next brew.

How can consumers support sustainability?   
Packaging is, by far, the largest contributor to the greenhouse gas emissions of a beer throughout its entire life cycle. Both glass and aluminum are infinitely recyclable. Yet Americans throw billions of dollars of aluminum cans and glass bottles in the landfill every year when we could be recycling it and creating more American jobs in the process. This is why Bayern Brewing’s innovative reusable bottle program is so exciting. … Tell the restaurants and bars you frequent to recycle if they’re not already.

What would you say to people who don’t think their efforts will make much of a difference? 
I would say that it is, in fact, worth it. It will take all of us. Every action adds up to the whole, and each action often inspires another. Be a part of the movement. Be contagious. When you’re 80 years old, be proud of the momentum you helped to create.