Missouri has been at the forefront of the beer industry for generations with Anheuser-Busch leading the way, but as craft brews gain popularity, local breweries are moving in a new direction to become leaders in sustainability. Breweries around the state—some new on the scene, some already well known—are committing to minimize their environmental impact by reducing waste, recycling and using solar energy.
At Boulevard Brewing Company in Kansas City, a rooftop solar array generates enough energy to brew 500,000 bottles of beer each year. But Boulevard doesn’t stop there—the western Missouri brewery founded Ripple Glass in 2009, Kansas City’s only local glass recycling program to keep 150 million pounds of glass out of landfills each year. The brewery also reduced water use by more than 10 percent last year—no small feat for an industry that relies on water as its key ingredient.
"At Boulevard, we think about sustainability in a broader context,” said Mike Utz, Engineering Director. “Sustainability is about reducing wastefulness and using resources, including power and water, more efficiently.”
On the opposite side of the state, craft breweries are popping up all over the St. Louis area. Schlafly, the first post-prohibition brewpub in Missouri, opened in 1991 and is pioneering sustainability at its brewing facilities. In addition to hosting a weekly farmers’ market and partnering with local vendors to supply its restaurant, Schlafly is adding a solar installation that will offset energy costs and produce up to 32,000 kWh each year at its Bottleworks location in suburban Maplewood. Schlafly also recycles organic food waste through a grant-funded composting project—diverting 70 tons of waste from landfills each year.
“Using renewable energy and cutting down on waste just seems like the right thing to do,” said Tom Flood, Properties and Sustainability Manager for Schlafly. “Our customers love it and it helps our business. There is absolutely no downside to going green.”
One of the newer breweries on the scene, Civil Life gets up to 40% of its electricity from a 25 kWh rooftop solar installation—resulting in a reduction in greenhouse gases that is equivalent to planting 520 trees in a year. Owner Jake Hafner is also committed to reducing waste at the facility—keeping track of customers’ tabs on a chalkboard instead of paper and giving the brewery’s used grain to a local farmer to feed cows.
“Using solar energy was the first step in our plan to minimize the carbon footprint of our brewery,” said Hafner. “It makes our business costs manageable and attracts customers.”
Another St. Louis craft brewery, Urban Chestnut Brewing Company, has a 10 kWh solar system that was added earlier this year—offsetting 5 tons of carbon emissions already. Similar to other sustainable Missouri breweries, Urban Chestnut is working to reduce landfill waste by composting food, passing spent grain on to local farmers for feed and recycling glass, plastic and cardboard—an effort that yields only one dumpster of trash each month.
“The brewing business uses a lot of energy to boil and chill beer, and we’ve always wanted to be as sustainable as possible,” said Florian Kuplent, Brewmaster at Urban Chestnut. “We want to protect the environment and leave the planet in good shape for future generations.”
Missouri craft breweries may be competing in the beer market, but they all agree when it comes to sustainability—and they are all leading the way.