In the early days, there was no such thing as small-scale brewing equipment. Everything we used was built or repurposed for the brewery. Back then, “reduce, reuse, recycle” wasn’t a catchphrase, but a business model. This hardscrabble ethos and our roots in Northern California helped solidify our commitment to the environment. We have been recognized locally, statewide, and nationally for our commitment to reducing our environmental impact. Although we have proven to be a leader in environmental sustainability, we are always looking for the next step we can take to be more efficient.
Sierra Nevada brewery houses one of the largest privately owned solar arrays in the country. Our 10,573 panels, located on the brewery roof, over the parking lot, at our on-site daycare and at our private rail spur produce two Megawatts of DC power and provide us with roughly 20% of our energy needs.
Hydrogen Fuel Cells
Sierra Nevada is the only brewery in the country to house hydrogen fuel cells on our premises. Our four fuel cells produce one Megawatt of DC power and provide the brewery with roughly 40% of our energy needs using non-combustion technology.
Energy efficiency is approached in a variable and multi-faceted way at Sierra Nevada. Heat recovery units on boilers, fuel cells, and brew kettles are in place to trap and recover energy that otherwise would be vented. Lighting systems are upgraded to be as efficient as possible and technology is in place to take advantage of natural light that comes in through sky lights and large windows throughout the plant. Motion sensors, ambient light sensors, and timers are located around the plant and function to adjust electric lighting based on the level of available natural light. Variable frequency devices are in place on large use motors and pumps in an effort to improve efficiency and conserve energy.
In 2011, 99.7% of Sierra Nevada’s solid waste was diverted from the landfill through creative measures that encourage reuse, recycling or composting of waste. Sierra Nevada is home to the only HotRot composting system in the U.S. which converts organic waste from the brewery and restaurant into rich compost which is then used in our estate hop field, barley field, restaurant garden, and employee garden.
CO2 Recovery and Emissions
Sierra Nevada Brewery makes every effort to recover CO2 produced during fermentation and recycle it back into the brewery instead of purchasing CO2 and transporting it from 100 miles away. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. voluntarily quantifies and reports greenhouse gas emissions to the Climate Registry. Our annual emissions reports are publicly available at http://www.theclimateregistry.org.
Getting beer from our brewery onto store shelves is no small feat. We recognize the toll it takes on the environment and we’re doing what we can to minimize our impact.
Sierra Nevada’s private rail spur allows malt to be delivered by train to our dock only two miles away from the brewery and greatly decreases the impact of grain transportation via truck. Sierra Nevada ships approximately 70% of our finished product to the East coast via rail which is 50% cleaner than over-the-road truck travel. The completion of our second brewery in Mills River, NC, will drastically reduce our transportation impact. Sierra Nevada also participates in the voluntary US EPA Smartway Program which aims to reduce fuel consumption and improve efficiency in truck fleets.
100% of waste vegetable oil from our restaurant is converted into biodiesel on site and used in our truck fleet. We also have two electric vehicle charging stations on site that are available for use free of charge to anyone visiting us with an electric car.
As one of the primary ingredients in beer, and a vitally important resource, water is always on our minds. We’re working to bring our water usage down to historic lows in the brewing industry. We built an on-site wastewater treatment facility that takes water from the brewery and pre-treats it before sending it to the municipal water supply. Biogas from the wastewater treatment process is recovered and then used to offset natural gas consumption in our boilers.
We have cut our water use by making improvements wherever possible, including things as simple as fixing leaks to more complex projects like equipment upgrades and process automization.
Whenever possible we work with local vendors for our packaging needs. We source packaging containing the highest amount of recyclable content while still meeting our high standards for quality. Draught beer, sold in stainless steel kegs, is always the most sustainable package. Kegs are infinitely reusable and refillable without degrading beer quality. Remember your reusable cup to really reduce your impact!
We work to ensure the ingredients we’re getting are top quality, but also transported in the most environmentally responsible ways. We use rail for malt delivery, drastically reducing emissions from truck-based transportation. Hops are delivered to the brewery on trucks that are loaded with beer for the return trip to Washington. After brewing, our spent grain, hops and yeast are emptied out of the brewhouse and used to feed cattle on local farms, including the Sierra Nevada herd of cattle.
2012 Outstanding “Closing the Loop” Commitment
California Resource Recovery Association
2011 Gold Achievement Award—Organic Materials Reduction
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-Region 9
2001-2011 WRAP (Waste Reduction Award Program)—State of California
2010-2012 Most Cycle-Friendly Place to Work in Chico
Gold Division—City of Chico
2010 Green Business of the Year
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-Region 9