One small but rapidly growing and thriving industry in Ontario is taking steps to reduce its impact on the environment and improve the bottom-line, by adopting eco-friendly business practices.
Craft brewers, opening up almost weekly across the province to meet a booming thirst for small-batched brewed beer, are as proud of their grassroots ideals as they are for their homegrown beverages.
“Traditional brewing styles are rooted in sustainability,” said Steve Beauchesne, owner of Beau’s Brewery in Vankleek Hill, Ontario. “It’s built on a foundation that understands resources are precious. The craft beer industry has really taken hold of that.”
Steam Whistle Brewing has also built its brand on the industry’s long-standing respect for the environment and social responsibility. “We’ve taken this seriously from day one,” said Sybil Taylor, Steam Whistle’s communications director, pointing out that the independent brewer captures steam to heat spring water for brewing, reuses its iconic green bottles up to 50 times and has eliminated all phosphates from cleaning materials.
Many Ontario craft brewers are turning to the BLOOM Centre for Sustainability for assistance and guidance with eco-business practices. BLOOM is a non-profit agency with a mandate to raise environmental awareness and find affordable and practical solutions for Ontario businesses.
“Small brewers are always working to improve the sustainability of their operations, and we applaud BLOOM’s work to help our members get even better at adopting more sustainable water resource management practices”, said John Hay, president, Ontario Craft Brewers.
“Responsible water management is essential to the sustainable growth of Ontario’s craft brewing sector,” said Jones. “These open-minded entrepreneurs want to do the right things when it comes to water resource management and other sustainable practices, and we’re pleased to help guide them in that direction.”
There are more than 130 operating craft breweries as well as 40 contract breweries in Ontario, most in smaller communities.
The industry employs well over 1,400 people in direct brewery jobs, and the Ontario Craft Brewers association estimates the broader economic impact of small brewers at $600 million annually.
With this rapid growth has come increased pressure on municipal water infrastructure systems. Water is an ever-increasingly precious resource, and business costs to use water and dispose of wastewater are continuing to increase.
Mario Bourgeois of Cassel Brewery was alerted to that reality in a conversation with BLOOM. He describes that as a wakeup call.
“We want to be environmentally conscious today. We also don’t want a knock on our door tomorrow from regulators telling us we have to pay more,” said Bourgeois from his office in Casselman, Ontario. “It’s all about awareness. Every little step makes a difference.”
BLOOM is currently doing pilot projects to show what is possible when craft breweries take a step back and re-think how they manage their water. Cassel Brewery, for one, is eager to explore opportunities to improve their practices related to water and wastewater, said BLOOM senior VP Michael Fagan.
“They are doing a lot of positive practices within their operations,” said Fagan. “But they also want to do what is right to manage water more sustainably, not just for their business, but also for their community and their customers.”
BLOOM will soon launch a free online resource called Water & Beer that will guide craft breweries through the ins and outs of water use, making it easier for them to adopt sustainable water management practices that make good business sense.
“Of course, there’s more the industry can do around water management to improve the bottom-line and protect the environment, said BLOOM’s Kevin Jones. “Craft brewers are very open minded, passionate about their profession and want to do better. We all want to do better and collectively we will.”
This project is funded by Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial agriculture initiative.