Brewery Perspectives: Sustainability at Brewery Vivant

Brewery Perspectives: Sustainability at Brewery Vivant


April 21, 2017 / Brewing

In honor of Earth Day, we're celebrating sustainability in hop growing and beer brewing. While there are many great efforts happening throughout the brewing industry, we were struck by the three-tiered philosophy of one of our customers in Grand Rapids, MI, and wanted to take a closer look at the driving force behind Brewery Vivant's commitment to run their business being nice to customers, co-workers, community and the environment via a brewery designed to offer a great experience while being conscious of our environment.

Brewery Vivant is a prime example of how craft breweries can effectively implement sustainability efforts into their business. The Vivant philosophy emphasizes the belief that a business can be an active extension of the community and should strive to find meaningful ways to give back. The pub works to have a positive impact on the communities they serve by providing a variety of programs, including community-minded infrastructure throughout the pub.

On a supply level, Brewery Vivant collaborates with Michigan farms for their pub fare and brewing practices. The pub is challenged to source 50% of all food inputs from within 250 miles and the brewery is challenged to source 25% of beer inputs from within the same radius. Co-owner and sustainability director, Kris Spaulding says, “we look for partners that share sustainability values and it’s a good thing when we find them.”

In recent years, Vivant has functioned well beyond 'cow neutral'. This means that in 2015, 19,495 burgers were consumed by pub patrons; the equivalent of 21.7 cows. In return, the brewery gave 324,945 pounds of spent grain to a local cattle farmer. At 25 pounds of grain eaten per cow per day, Brewery Vivant’s efforts fed 35.6 cows.

Being a truly sustainable company means to consider the impact of decisions on the natural environment, the people that may be affected, and the financial health of the business. Brewery Vivant strives to balance all of these areas to operate the business with a long-term approach.

The initial incentive to include sustainability efforts throughout their practices was because it felt like the right thing to do, however as the brewery developed Vivant found that there were many ways to include sustainability in the brewery infrastructure. Simply brewing in a LEED Certified Silver building is not the point. Within the vibrant craft brewing industry there are many breweries doing some really great things around sustainability.

Brewery Vivant pursued LEED certification among other routes to incorporate ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. The brewery’s rainwater runoff is recaptured in a giant cistern and slowly released into the ground to reduce pressure on the city’s wastewater treatment plant. Vivant also uses no potable water to irrigate the landscaping around the building and within the beer garden. Toilets are low flow and the pub has waterless urinals, resulting in yearly water savings of nearly 50,000 gallons of potable water. These practices are just a few examples of building sustainability into the foundation of business.

In addition to LEED certification, Brewery Vivant became B Corp certified in May of 2014 to protect the core mission of sustainability, gain access to a network of like-minded businesses, and challenge the brewery to continue to improve. B Certification assesses many aspects of a business, including corporate governance, employee relations, community commitment and environmental footprint. Certified B Corporations are also legally required to consider the impact of their decisions on people and planet in addition to profit.

At YCH, we couldn't agree more. Stay tuned for additional blog posts to see updates on the progress we have made against our sustainability goals this year, and highlights from our team as we celebrate April being "Recycling Awareness Month."The Brewery Vivant team believes sustainability fits with craft breweries because sustainability honors the craft. It demonstrates that all efforts are purposeful. In support of Vivant’s overall goals. Spaulding, says, “Think about your passions within the realm of sustainability, then pick the measures you want to dive into and examine starting points.” Brewery Vivant gauges progress on their selected measures with the release of an annual Beer the Change report highlighting their growth and sustainability successes. When asked about where a business should choose to start Spaulding continued, “start small and build a program from those starting points. Find those passionate employees to build a sustainability team within your business and empower them within that role.”

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