The Green Brewhaha: Sustainability at Kona Brewing Company

What’s your name and the name of your brewery?

Rich Tucciarone, VP of Brewery Operations, Kona Brewing Company

How long have you been in the business?
I’ve been in the craft beer business for 17 years and with Kona Brewing Company for 11+ years.

Where are you located?
We are located in Kailua-Kona on the beautiful Big Island of Hawaii, the most isolated land mass in the world.

What volume of beer do you produce and where do you distribute?
In 2009 our Kailua-Kona brewery produced just shy of 10,000 barrels of beer. We recently joined forces with Craft Brewers Alliance and produced an additional 103,000 barrels of beer at three of its breweries on the mainland in 2009. Our beer is distributed in 23 states and Japan.

What are your plans for growth, if any?
We plan to continue to increase our production both here in Kona and on the mainland to keep up with demand.

What makes your brewery sustainable?
It’s a long list! In 2009 both our Hawaii pubs became Certified Green Restaurants® by the Green Restaurant Association. The Kailua-Kona brewery produces Hawaii’s first and only certified organic beer, Oceanic Organic Saison. This summer we completed a 228 kW solar generating system which allows nearly 60 percent offset of our current electricity usage. Most of the Kailua-Kona brewery’s spent grain is given to a cattle rancher, and the remaining amount is used as an ingredient in the pubs’ pizza dough and breads. Kona Brewing Company champions recycling, is careful with its waste and supports groups that strive to protect the environment.

Throughout our facilities, much of the building material has been recycled. Our disposable cups that are used at festivals and events are biodegradable, and our to-go containers are compostable. The brewery uses heat exchangers to reclaim thermal energy for water heating in the brewing process. The pub uses a heat reclamation system on its air conditioner for water heating in the kitchen. A whiskey barrel collects more than 90 gallons of condensation per day from air conditioning systems, and the water is used for landscaping irrigation. The list goes on and on.

What’s your biggest sustainability challenge?
Living on an island, we must import nearly all of our raw materials. That can create a big carbon footprint. We lessen it by utilizing a bulk grain handling system, allowing us to receive and store large amounts of grain, thereby reducing the shipment frequency. Additionally, by producing our bottled beer and mainland draft beer on the mainland, close to markets, we have dramatically reduced our reliance upon transportation and its associated fuel use – transporting raw materials and glass to and from Hawaii, transporting finished beer across the ocean and across the country. This also ensures beer drinkers are receiving the freshest beer.

Any new sustainability projects in the pipeline that have you excited?
Completing the installation of the solar energy generating system was a great accomplishment this year! Nothing else big in the works right now – a continuation of the same.

Forget finances- what’s your brewery pipe dream?
I’d love to have a brewery operate completely off the grid, making all organic beers! The brewery would be put together from completely recycled equipment – there is so much of it out there that could be put to good use!

What is the one thing you want Triple Pundit readers to know about your brewery?
It’s worth a visit out here to Hawaii! Many beer drinkers know us for our nationally distributed beers – Longboard Island Lager, Pipeline Porter, Fire Rock Pale Ale, Wailua Wheat Ale. Here at our pub in Hawaii we often have more than a dozen on tap, running the gamut in style and flavor: a Bavarian-style Hula Hefeweizen, Oceanic Organic Saison, Big Island Ginger Beer, Old Blowhole Barley Wine, Coconut Brown Ale.

What’s your favorite brew?
That’s like asking me to chose a favorite child! It depends upon the time of year, the time of day, the weather, what food I’m eating…

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.

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