BY ROBERT SIRRINE
Special to the Record-Eagle
---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Michigan is home to more than 120 craft breweries, according to the Michigan Brewers Guild, making Michigan fifth in the country with 17 new breweries opening their doors in 2012 alone.
The industry grew by 20 percent, outperforming the national average by 12 percent.
Michigan’s craft brew industry contributes more than $130 million to the state’s economy and provides thousands of jobs. While impressive, many Michigan breweries also emphasize not just “profits” but two other pillars that make up a Triple Bottom Line: “planet” and “people.”
Triple bottom line stalwarts Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. and New Belgium Brewing Co. have led the sustainability charge for years. Each company employs a sustainability coordinator, has developed a comprehensive sustainability plan and produces a sustainability report. You can even track the energy Sierra Nevada is generating from its solar panels and Hydrogen fuel cells in real time. New Belgium has set forth sustainable purchasing guidelines for suppliers and has donated over $5 million to non-profit causes since 1991. Not to be outdone, many Michigan craft breweries are joining the club.
Brewery Vivant and Founders Brewing Company in Grand Rapids, MI (Beer City USA 2012 and 2013) recently received the 2013 Triple Bottom Line Business Awards. Brewery Vivant achieved LEED Silver Green Building Certification for the redevelopment of their brewery, the first in the United States. They also have a sustainability coordinator to help them achieve their sustainability goals that you can find here. In addition to Grand Rapids breweries mentioned above, Arcadia Brewing Company in Battle Creek, Shorts Brewing Company in Bellaire, Right Brain Brewery in Traverse City, and several other Michigan craft breweries have joined the NRDC’s Clean Water Pledge, which advocates for strong clean water policies.
Also on the environmental and economic fronts, Michigan State University Extension recently completed a multi-state, USDA funded Organic Research and Extension Initiative. This initiative funded an organic hops variety trial that will help Michigan hop growers supply Michigan’s first certified organic brewery, the Grand Rapids Brewing Company.
From purchasing Michigan grown hops to recycling wastewater, Michigan craft brewers are demonstrating that the Triple Bottom Line represents a successful business model.
Dr. Rob Sirrine is Community Food Systems Educator with MSU Extension.