Environment + Sustainability
Giving back to our communities is at the root of everything we do. As we continue to brew more beer for more people, we are continuously looking for opportunities to do good in our communities, whether that means partnering with positive community organizations or adopting more sustainable practices.
Energy Conservation & Production
At Ninkasi, we are aware that it takes energy to make beer, but we are also aware that there are many improvements we can make to conserve, produce and reuse energy throughout the process. Installed in November 2011, the Ninkasi brewery and tasting room, functions with partial energy supplied from the 44.7 kilowatt solar array installed on the roof of the facility. The solar array consists of 160 panels. During peak power generation, the solar panels make up for eight percent of all power used in the main production building. Another significant way we conserve energy happens during the brewing process, where we use a heat exchanger to recapture heat from the wort as it's cooled – on its way from the whirlpool to the fermentation tanks.
We have taken steps to offset our energy use, one of which is our partnership with NW Natural's Smart Energy Program. Through this program, we purchase carbon offsets that are used to help farmers build biodigesters. These biodigesters turn cow waste into on-demand, renewable energy.
Conserving is always top of mind when purchasing new or updated systems throughout all of our facilities. In the brewery, we focus on small steps that make big changes over time. This includes reclaiming cooling water from the brewing process for use in subsequent batches, rinsing our tanks with bursts or short-pulses as opposed to using continuous water flow and by eliminating open hoses allowing us to chart and measure what water we use. Our keg line also uses a chemical reservoir that reduces both chemical and water usage in the kegging process
In a partnership with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF), we are able to balance more than 50 percent of our total water usage to purchase Water Restoration Credits. In response to the increase of global water scarcity, the BEF offers the first-of-its-kind tool to actually restore the water footprint we cannot avoid in the brewing process. In 2012 and 2013, we were able to help re-stream the Middle Deschutes River with 5,000,000 gallons of water each year!
Great beer must start with clean water. That's why in 2013, we joined the Natural Resource Defense Council (NRDC) and its more than one million supporters to stand up for clean water and the Clean Water Act.
We take pride in what we put in our beers and the partners that help us deliver that beer to our customer. This starts with the very ingredients that go into making every Ninkasi brew. A driving factor in placing our brewery in Eugene, was its convenience to great local resources perfect for making a great beer. Our hops are sourced almost wholly from the Pacific Northwest – Yakima Valley in Washington and our own Willamette Valley in Oregon.
From the liquid to the packaging – our bottles, produced by Saxco International and Owens-Illinois in Portland, Ore., are made from as much as 60 percent post-consumer glass, all originating in Portland whenever possible. This is a major step when comparing this to industry standards of 35 percent post-consumer glass in North American glass plants. After our beers are bottled, they are affixed with labels produced by our printer, Shelton Turnbull. Located less than three miles away from the brewery, Shelton Turnbull is a leader in environmental responsibility in its industry. Finally, after labeling the bottles are packaged into either carriers or mother cartons. Provided by Graphic Packaging, Inc., the cardboard used in our 6-pack carriers, 4-pack cartons and 12-packs cartons contain 100 percent recycled content, with a minimum of 35 percent post-consumer waste content. Sourced from International Paper in Portland, Ore., our mother cartons are made from fiber-based packaging that is 100 percent renewable and procured from responsibly managed forests certified by the Sustainable Forest Initiative (SFI). In addition, International Paper's mills use more than 70 percent renewable energy, which is self-generated and carbon neutral.
We are constantly in search of new ways to recycle or reuse our products. One such method is the upcycling of our spent grain for use by local farmers. Through our partnership with Oregon Natural Meats, we are able to bring hundreds of thousands of pounds of spent grain to local ranchers to be used as feed for their cows. Since 2009, we have upcycled more than 40 million pounds of spent grain – creating local products out of what would otherwise become waste in our local agriculture.
A recycling program has also taken form throughout our bottling and packaging lines. We have taken the extra effort to collect items not suitable for commercial commingle recycling in Oregon – items that otherwise would immediately go into the landfill In a partnership with International Paper in Portland, Ore. we are able to recycle all of our corrugated cardboard, plastic shrink wrap, brewers malt bags, and green plastic strapping used to band pallets. In 2012, we invested in a chipper to help break down the green plastic strapping for easier recycling by International Paper. Cardboard recycled from our brewery has the benefit of staying local. It is taken from the brewery to the International Paper Containerboard Plant in Springfield (less than five miles away) where it is made into new cardboard stock.
Our current facilities, which started as the original 1,200 square-foot brew house, includes upgrades such as skylights in the brewery to cut down on lighting use, automated light fixtures throughout the brewery and offices, and the installment of hand-dryers in the restrooms in place of paper towels. Our forth and largest expansion in 2014 (which includes our 90-barrel brewhouse, administrative building and local distribution facility) boast many sustainable features. All three buildings are registered to be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified under the new Campus Approach. Our location offers accessibility to many of our employees who live and work in the same neighborhood—riding bikes or even walking to work on a daily basis.
Community Partnerships & Support
Beyond our core purpose – Perpetuate Better Living – we also maintain a core value of successful integration of work and life. In light of this, we have created successful partnerships with organizations that are sustainable-minded or offer cultural sustainability in their communities. Historically beer has been the foundation of society and culture. At Ninkasi, we use it as the bind to bring these partnerships together, whether that's through our Beer is Love program, using our products to raise awareness and funds for these organizations, or encouraging non-profit relationships with our retailers.
Through our Beer Is Love program, we partnered with more than 700 organizations throughout our distribution footprint in 2013 alone, offering beer, product and cash donations for their internal and fundraising events.
In 2012, we commemorated The City of Eugene's 150th Anniversary with a special release brew, donating all profits to our local FOOD For Lane County. In 2011, we teamed up with the Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB) to brew a special release beer to commemorate its 100th anniversary. In doing so, all profits from the sell of the beer went to directly support the McKenzie River Trust – a local non-profit aimed at protecting the water supply that feeds our brewery in the McKenzie basin. In 2014, we released another round of this beer to commemorate 25 years of the Trust's dedication to our waterways. Each year, we also release a special brew for the Whiteaker Block Party, a homage to the neighborhood and community surrounding our brewery.
Additionally, we support many local food providers in our community. We do this through only carrying locally-made snacks in our tasting room – some of which are made only a block away – as well as hosting a rotating line-up of local food carts on our patio.
We also encourage the positive development of relationships between our retailers and their local communities. One example is our Pints For A Cause (PFAC) program, aimed at creating awareness and relationships between Ninkasi retailers and a local non-profit of their choice. Through holding a PFAC event, our retailers are not only able to support their local community, but the non-profit receives one dollar of every Ninkasi pint sold.