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  • Julie Moline

Land Grant Brewing Company is Grounded in Sustainability

Craft breweries have become so popular that on average, two open in the U.S. every day. There are many standouts, but one is especially noteworthy, not just because of its product (which is highly rated) or its success (which came remarkably quickly) but because of its staunch support of sustainability.

In its third year of operation, comfortably in the black and expanding, Land Grant Brewing Co. surveyed its 40 employees to determine what they thought were the most important environmental and philanthropic impacts the company could make. The answers boiled down to four areas, which then became the pillars of Land Grant’s sustainability plan: mitigation of lifecycle impact, reduction of carbon footprint, water stewardship and deep community partnerships. The three co-owners set up an aggressive timeline for results—3 years—with the overarching goal to become one of the most sustainable breweries of its size in the Midwest (Land-Grant is based in Columbus, Ohio).

You can follow the company’s progress against its goals on its website, where there’s also a detailed explanation of how it is reducing energy consumption, minimizing waste, decreasing water use intensity, removing brewing byproducts from wastewater, partnering with different farmers and environmental organizations, and supporting the community. In 2016, the company hired a sustainability manager, Vinny Valentino, a former energy analyst for the Environmental Defense Fund and a graduate of Ohio State U’s EEDS program, which integrates sustainability, business management, environmental science and community development—a perfect mirror of Land Grant’s interests. It’s not unusual for breweries to have a sustainability staff; New Belgium Brewing has a group of about 10 full-time employees working on its environmental initiatives, but it’s the 3rd largest craft brewer in the US, producing 958,000 barrels a year to Land Grant’s 9,000. What Land Grant is doing is working on creative solutions that fit its scale, and is sharing its results as a paradigm for other small, urban craft breweries. Think of it as open sourcing for something more drinkable than code.

One of those solutions is to close the loop on waste products. Instead of dumping spent grain down the drain, or paying to truck it to a landfill, workers from a nearby cattle farm pick up between 1,300 and 2,600 lbs. of it every day. The Angus cows love it. Spent yeast, another byproduct of beer making, is diverted to St. Stephen’s Community House, a community garden/demonstration farm that grows produce for a food pantry and CSA; Land Grant also sources fruit and herbs from it for its specialty infusions. Yeast is nitrogen-rich, making it perfect for composting and entirely imperfect to send into the municipal water system; the low pH can cause corrosion, among other problems. The team is also working on a way to filter out trub (hops residue) from wastewater, and hopes to have results next year.

In the meantime, the company is a great example of how sustainability initiatives can be baked into a startup plan and put into action once the enterprise finds its feet.

Find out more about Land Grant’s sustainability initiatives here:

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