The Green Brewhaha: Sustainability at Steam Whistle Brewing

What’s your name and the name of your brewery?
Sybil Taylor, Steam Whistle Brewing

How long have you been in the business?
First bottles came off the line in March 2000.

Where are you located?
Our brewery is housed in the historic John St. Roundhouse, a retired Canadian Pacific steam engine repair facility from 1929, located in the heart of downtown Toronto, Canada.

What volume of beer do you produce and where do you distribute?
We will produce 60,000 hectolitres (or roughly 120,000 barrels) in 2011. We are currently distributed in Canada only – throughout bars, restaurants and most Government-run and private Liquor and Beer retailers in the province of Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia, with some spotty distribution in Saskatchewan, The Yukon and the North West Territories.

What are your plans for growth, if any?
Our ultimate goal is to become known as the most respected Pilsner in Canada (which is less about volume of sales and more about reputation), which will mean complete distribution coast to coast. Eventually once we are Canada’s Premium Pilsner, we will begin to export around the world.

What makes your brewery sustainable?
We abide by the following green initiatives:

  1. Steam Whistle beer is made with only 4 all natural Ingredients – all GMO-free.
  2. Signature ‘Green’ Bottles are refilled three times as often as industry brown bottles. Other bi-products of packaging such as cardboard, shrink wrap, broken glass and scrap metal are baled and recycled.
  3. The brewery is powered using 100% green electricity from Bullfrog Power (power derived from wind farms and Eco logo TM low impact hydro dams).
  4. Deep Lake Water Cooling chills the facilities in the summer months. (this involves drawing cold water from the bottom of Lake Ontario for chill as an alternative to Freon-based air conditioning).
  5. Trucks are fueled with Bio Diesel made from soya fuel & recycled restaurant grease.
  6. Efficient District Steam Heat is used to brew, wash bottles, and to heat the building.
  7. State-of-the-art Energy & Water Efficient Brewhouse has reduced waste water by 2/3 and registered a 25% power savings.
  8. The first brewery in Canada to adopt 100% Compostable Beer Cups.
  9. Energy Efficient Lighting, motion detectors and reliance on natural light have reduced power consumption.
  10. A Waste Diversion program sends leftover edibles from brewery events to a local street mission and organic waste to commercial composts.
  11. A Clean Air Commute is encourage for all employees with showers, towel service and secure, sheltered bike storage provided.

We attribute our culture of environmental awareness to our ‘organic corporate structure’ which fosters multi-directional communication and celebrates employee initiative and participation in decision-making and problem-solving. Employee volunteers man a committee which is responsible for the company’s environmental stewardship. All staff performance appraisals include a review of individual commitment to the company’s green initiatives, inspiring individual ownership for reducing the collective footprint.

This methodology seems to be working as Steam Whistle Brewing was named one of Canada’s greenest employers on Earth Day 2010.

What’s your biggest sustainability challenge?
Definitely a challenge for us (and any brewery) is the carbon footprint from transporting inputs and from distributing our beer. Canada is a huge country and beer is a heavy product. Minimizing our footprint is a real challenge. We have been exploring other vehicle options – electric vehicles which could be powered by renewable power. We are currently using biofuel and have some energy efficient vehicles in our fleet.

Any new sustainability projects in the pipeline that have you excited?
We have recently paired with both the University of Toronto and Ryerson University’s Masters of Environmental Studies programs to help move our environmental agenda. We are acting as a case study for several different courses, and they are assisting with benchmarking/data collection studies; water/power/waste minimization and other potential projects.

Forget finances- what’s your brewery pipe dream?
Cut our water:beer ratio from 5.15:1 to 3:1! Cut our carbon footprint substantially!

What is the one thing you want Triple Pundit readers to know about your brewery?
A lot of consumers get very excited about organic ingredients but for the most part those ingredients cannot be sourced locally and have a huge carbon count associated with them. We would want consumers to consider the entire process and overall company commitment to the environment and to the community. We are really proud of the moral fiber of Steam Whistle which goes well beyond simply ingredients.

What’s your favorite brew?
Steam Whistle Pilsner of course!

Take a virtual tour of the brewery here.

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.

One response

  1. Looks Good on ya Steam Whistle. I am glad to see a small brewery taking on the big boys. You never hear about the big boys efforts to do something good for the environment.

    I stumbled upon this article as my greasetrap recovers restaurant grease for the manufacturing of biodiesel.

    Remeber Sustainability is a journey, Not a destination.

    Pass me a Steam Whistle.

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