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Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshot

MillerCoors Cuts Water and Energy Use, Pilots Sustainable Barley Farming


Next time you reach for a MillerCoors brew, you can rest assured that the company is doing its part to be environmentally sustainable.

The company has greatly reduced its water and energy usage, according to its latest sustainability report. From 2012 to 2013, MillerCoors reduced the barrels of water it takes to brew one barrel of beer by 9.1 percent. The second largest brewer in the U.S., the company also slashed energy use by 15.6 percent from 2012, saving 1.6 billion mega joules of energy last year. MillerCoors has eight major breweries, and all of them reduced energy use.

Water is a big part of brewing beer, so reducing its usage is not an easy feat for any brewery. From 2011 to 2013, MillerCoors saved over 1.1 billion gallons of water. That’s enough water to fill 1,783 Olympic-size swimming pools or meet the needs of more than 11,500 average American households for a year. One of the ways it achieved the water savings is by converting its Fort Worth Brewery from steam heating to a pasteurizer reclaim system, which uses recirculated water instead of fresh, incoming water to cool beer after pasteurization. It also installed water reclamation systems in six of its eight major breweries, which saves tens of millions of gallons of water a year.

MillerCoors’ water conservation efforts are being recognized. Its Irwindale Brewery received the Water Stewardship Award from the Irwindale Chamber of Commerce for its water conservation work. That work included converting 50 percent of the brewery turf to Dryscape which reduces water use by over 15 million gallons a year. In other breweries, the company has implemented tertiary water reuse systems, which use effluent water (treated water) for specific uses in non-production areas. Its breweries in Albany, Georgia and Eden, North Carolina have tertiary water reclamation systems for their cooling towers.

The beer-maker also recently teamed up with The Nature Conservancy to build its Showcase Barley Farm in Idaho’s Silver Creek Valley to pilot new and more sustainable farming techniques. The farm saved more than 429.5 million gallons of water over the last three years.

MillerCoors created a similar program on its farm in Colorado’s San Luis Valley. Farms in the area rely on aquifers for irrigation, and they have been declining over the past 44 years and are now at record lows. The company conducted a grower survey to determine which practices would best serve the Valley’s farms. One of the best practices reviewed was shutting off end guns, the sprinkle nozzles at the end of watering arms. Shutting them off saves 100 to 200 gallons of water per minute. Replacing the nozzles with more efficient ones was another practiced reviewed. Additionally, the company is now conducting research to find new varieties of barley that need less water.

Other key takeaways from the report included reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, waste and product packaging. From 2012 to 2013, the company reduced its GHG emissions by 14 percent. Its Golden Brewery, the largest single-site brewery in the U.S., reduced carbon emissions by 28 percent over the last year. Meanwhile, the company's Shenandoah Brewery reduced carbon emissions by 15 percent in the same time frame.

In 2013, two breweries, the MillerCoors Albany and Golden breweries, achieved landfill-free status by reusing or recycling over 99 percent of waste produced. A total of six of its eight breweries are now landfill-free. To reduce waste at its source, the company also reduced packaging for its products by 3.6 percent from 2012. Ultimately, the company aims to reduce overall annual weight of all of its packaging in the supply chain by 2 percent by 2015.

Image credit: MillerCoors

Gina-Marie Cheeseman headshotGina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.

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