Nov-30-2007

Sustainable Practices at the New Belgium Brewing Company

Post written by Chris Spagnuolo. Follow Chris on Twitter Add comment

In our quest to make our new office build-out as Green as possible, our team took a field trip to the New Belgium Brewing Company offices here in Ft. Collins (luckily for us it’s just down the road from our new office!). For those of you not familiar with New Belgium, they are a nationally recognized leader in sustainable industry.  In fact, NBC Nightly News did a story on New Belgium’s sustainable approach to business not too long ago.

We were very fortunate to have Matt and Penelope Gilliland give us a tour of New Belgium’s office space and brewing operation.  The office spaces at New Belgium contain so many materials that are either recycled, re-used, re-purposed, or made from renewable resources that it’s almost overwhelming.  Here are just some of the green office solutions we got to see:

  • Desks made from former bowling alley floors and Fed-Ex shipping tubes
  • Conference tables made from recycled keg caps
  • Marmoleum tables from Forbo
  • Sound dampening wall and ceiling panels made of dried compressed grasses
  • Recycled carpeting from Flor
  • Bamboo flooring
  • Chairs and stools made of re-purposed bicycle components
  • White boards made from recycled fiberglass
  • Recycled sheet metal and magnet bulletin boards

Aside from the office materials, the brewing process is incredibly green as well.  They have truly gone beyond just recycling and are actively closing the loop on waste in their operation.  New Belgium has its own onsite process water treatment facility. This allows them to clean the water used for brewing and other purposes throughout the facility.  In a series of ponds, bacteria feed on the organic waste in the process water and clean it.  A byproduct of this process is the production of methane. New Belgium captures this methane and pipes it back into their building where it fires a combined heat and power engine that produces both electrical and thermal energy. This powers about 10-15% of the brewery and closes the waste loop by turning a potential wastestream into a useful commodity.

In addition to the methane power they generate, New Belgium buys 100% of the rest of it’s electric power from Fort Collins Utilities as wind power.  They actively work to reduce their power consumption by using plenty of windows, skylights, and sun tubes for natural lighting.  When lighting is needed, it appeared that they had motion sensors on many of their lights to turn them on automatically only when needed.  To reduce their power load for cooling their beers, they use large induction fans to pull in the cool Ft. Collins air in the winter.

All in all, we were absolutely impressed and amazed at the effort New Belgium has made to become a leader in sustainable business practices.  I can write a ton more here about their sustainable practices and how well New Belgium treats their employees (free bikes after a year, a trip to Belgium after 5 years!!!) but I’ll try to keep this relatively short.  We didn’t get a chance to speak with their IT folks about what they’re doing to reduce their impact, but I plan to follow up in the future to see if we can get any ideas on that front as well.  And yes, we had a great time…and drank some beer at the end!  Here are a few shots of the team checking out the brewery.

Mike Juniper, Vish, Jeff Germain, me, and Dave Bouwman in the brewhouse

Dave nearly took this cask of beer home with him!!!

Talking sustainable industry (and beer) with Matt Gilliland of New Belgium (second from left)

Matt Gilliland demos the cool touch screen process controller.  From this single panel, any aspect of the brewing, fermentation, delivery, and storage can be controlled.  Talk about the killer app…and the killer job.  We were all a bit jealous of Matt!!!

The obligatory beer tasting with Mike, Matt, and Dave.  The barstools are made from old bicycle rims and assorted bicycle parts.


© Copyright 2007, ChrisSpagnuolo.com GeoScrum! by Chris Spagnuolo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

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