The Green Brewhaha: Sustainability at New Belgium Brewery

What’s your name and the name of your brewery?
Katie Wallace, Sustainability Specialist, New Belgium Brewing

How long have you been in the business?
New Belgium was founded in 1991. I have been here for over six years.

Where are you located?
Fort Collins, Colorado

What volume of beer do you produce and where do you distribute?
582,800 barrels (1 bbl = 31 gallons) were shipped from NBB in 2009. We distribute our beer in 26 states: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Tennessee, Washington and Wyoming. All of this beer is brewed in Fort Collins, Colorado.

What makes your brewery sustainable?
Our brewery is actually not sustainable in the sense that we consume more resources than we are able to replenish, but we are working hard to become more sustainable every day. For most companies to reach true sustainability, however, large shifts would have to occur in this country’s infrastructure. I don’t think a 100% sustainable brewery exists, but many of us are doing everything we can to improve our practices and advocate for structural/societal shifts that would create a business environment more conducive to sustainable brewing. Please visit our Sustainability Report to find out what we are doing to serve our triple bottom line.

What’s your biggest sustainability challenge?
I believe three of the largest issues that brewing, as an industry, faces are:

1.Maintaining availability and affordability of clean, abundant water.

2. Reducing the impact of single-use packaging that is the norm United States.

3.Improving the sustainability of agricultural practices used to grow barley and hops. We need smarter farming practices that eliminate net greenhouse gas emissions entirely (which is possible!) while preserving biodiversity and ecosystem health.

Any new sustainability projects in the pipeline that have you excited?
Right now New Belgium is installing a smart grid! When trying to solve the environmental and economic issues surrounding energy, we believe conservation is the cheapest and most sustainable first step. The most sustainable watt is the one never produced. By bringing the technology we have in computers & cell phones to the grid, we can program appliances and equipment to shut off when the power company reaches peak production. Rather than the power company turning on an extra engine, they send us a signal that triggers our smart grid program to shut down certain areas of the brewery that will not be negatively affected by a few minutes without power. If we all learn to time our energy use more wisely, we do not have to build more power plants.

New Belgium's Save the River Campaign
‘Save the Colorado’ is another exciting project we recently launched to fund water stewardship efforts on the Colorado River (which supplies half of the water coming to Fort Collins). This voice of advocacy for water stewardship is incorporated into our Skinny Dip Beer ad campaign in an effort we call “Advercacy” (Advertising + Advocacy). New Belgium has committed to donating $300,000 over the next three years to non-profit organizations working to study and repair the Colorado River. Several other companies have joined us in this effort and you can too by visiting

Forget finances- what’s your brewery pipe dream?
New Belgium’s pipe dream is to make the most delicious and creative beer in a way that honors & preserves nature (the source of our beer) and creates plenty of opportunity to enjoy life in the process. To do this, we think they way we’ve done business for the last hundred years needs to be reevaluated. That is why we are employee-owned and making decisions based not only on financial health, but also the health of the environment and health &; happiness of the people. We think it is a soulfully fulfilling way to do business that also makes us financially sound for the long-run.

What is the one thing you want Triple Pundit readers to know about your brewery?
We want to keep it fun! Sustainability is not all doom & gloom. In fact, let’s stop calling it ‘sustainability’ and start referring to it as ‘flourishability’, because flourishing is what we all want to do, and frankly, it’s a much more inspiring goal to work towards. We think humans can live a very fulfilling and abundant lifestyle that exists in harmony with the environment that supports us. We are excited to help create a world in which humans are all flourishing along with nature and where businesses like New Belgium are proudly contributing to this good life that we are all living.

What’s your favorite brew?
Eric’s Sour Ale is my favorite beer of all time, and when I can’t find one of those, I’ll pick up a 1554 (a pretty tasty 2nd favorite!).

Jen Boynton

Jen Boynton is editor in chief of TriplePundit and editorial director at 3BL Media. With over 6 million annual readers, TriplePundit is the leading publication on sustainable business and the Triple Bottom Line. Prior to TriplePundit, Jen received an MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School. In her work with TriplePundit she's helped clients from SAP to PwC to Fair Trade USA with their sustainability communications messaging. When she's not at work, she volunteers as a CASA -- court appointed special advocate for children in the foster care system. She enjoys losing fights with toddlers and eating toast scraps. She lives with her family in sunny San Diego.

2 responses

Leave a Reply