Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Greening of Anheuser-Busch

This windmill provides power for the Anheuser-Busch Fairfield Brewery
People say a lot of things about Anheuser-Busch.   Plenty sneer at their products, caling them watery and tasteless but they still sell more beer than any other American brewery. They've gotten a reputation as a big evil corporate Goliath, but there's another side of Anheuser-Busch few know about.

Anheuser-Busch is serious about reducing their impact on the environment.  A lot of this is on display at their brewery in Fairfield, CA which I visited late last year. Intrigued by what I saw, I contacted Anheuser-Busch to learn more.  It took a while, but through an e-mail routed through their media relations department, I posed some questions to Damon Waker, a resident engineer at the Fairfield Brewery about the water reduction and alternative energy generation at this facility, and how this is being extended company wide.  Here's what he had to say.

1) What's your involvement in the various environmental initiatives at the Fairfield brewery?
Part of my role is implementing more efficient ways to make the quality beers our customers expect. This includes the resources required to make beer, a significant one being water use which is very important in California as we continue to face drought conditions. 

2) Can you describe the various efforts at the brewery to reduce water usage?  How much did each save?
The Fairfield brewery has reduced its overall water use by 47 percent since 2007. Employee engagement programs that result in new ideas on how to conserve and use water more efficiently is what drives the greatest progress. We also internally designed and implemented ways to reclaim water used in the brewing process and then re-distribute it in operations areas, such as cooling towers. The brewery also recycles more than 99 percent of the solid waste used in the brewing and packaging processes.

3) Can you describe the efforts for alternative energy sources at the brewery? 
The expansion of alternative energy sourcing is part of Anheuser-Busch’s commitment to environmental stewardship from ‘seed to sip.’

The Fairfield brewery’s total alternative energy generation is 4.1 megawatts, or approximately 30 percent of electricity needs from alternative energy.

The Fairfield brewery is an industry leader in generating self-sustaining energy needs through a 7 acre solar array and now two turbines – one completed in 2011 and the second one being completed now.

4) What we the main motivations of these efforts?
Anheuser-Busch has a long history of environmental stewardship, both inside and outside its breweries. 
Alternative energy sources including seven acres of solar arrays, two wind turbines, bio-energy recovery systems (BERS), recycling and water conservation efforts, contribute to making Anheuser-Busch’s Fairfield brewery one of the greenest breweries in the industry.

Water reclamation equipment at the Fairfield Brewery
We want to increase both efficiency and sustainability wherever possible. This is part of our Seed to Sip environmental platform that focuses on reducing water and energy use while increasing efficiency, recycling and reuse across our supply chain. Like most companies, any project we undertake must present a business case in addition to the environmental benefits.

5) What were the challenges in getting these efforts implemented?
Projects that require external partners, like wind turbines, bring a series of challenges as you develop the size and scope of a project and tackle planning stages.  

6) Are there plans to expand these programs at the Fairfield site to other breweries?  
We are always considering ways to increase sustainability while maintaining the quality of our products. We have water conservation plans being enacted across all our breweries as well as efficiency projects looking at energy, reuse and recycling.

Some may claim this is all largely a big corporation cost reduction strategy masquerading as a feel good environmental program.  And you know what, they could be right. But so what?  Environmentalists have claimed for decades that good business and good environmental practices can co-exist.  At the scale of Anheuser-Busch, some pretty serious environmental change is happening at the scale of tens if not hundreds of craft breweries, and they still do it profitably.  That my friends, is beer brewed the hard way.  

There's a lot of A-B beer fermenting away in there.

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