Last updated on October 20th, 2018 at 06:45 am
Stepping into the tasting room, dubbed the Liquid Center, at New Belgium Brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado, I felt a vibe unlike almost any I get from a large business in Corporate America. New Belgium’s reputation as a groundbreaking green business did precede that feeling , but seeing the smiles on the employees faces told the truth about this highly-evolved corporate citizen’s place in the green business world. Those smiles weren’t alcohol-induced grins of crapulence, rather a genuine love of their jobs.
A sprightly twenty-something bartender bounced over to me and my fifty-year-old uncle, asking both of us for our IDs. In response to my uncle’s look of surprise, she genuinely replied “I love my job and don’t want to lose it.” After learning that New Belgium employees take part in the ownership and decision making of the third largest craft brewery in the country I could understand the attachment. It seems workers here have truly found a job that they don’t want to lose.
In 1999 New Belgium became the first wind-powered brewery in the country as well as the largest private consumer of wind-powered electricity. They’ve since built on their green reputation by creating a wastewater treatment facility that produces enough methane to generate 15% of the brewery’s electricity needs. With bio-diesel trucks to transport their beer, green building design and efficient brew kettles, this company effectively demonstrates how to operate with as little a footprint as possible.
Fixed to the walls, lining the racks outside, in pictures—there are bikes everywhere you look at New Belgium. So what do bikes and brewing have in common?The recipe for the brewery’s first beer, Fat Tire, came out of the owner’s bicycle trip through Belgium. The company’s commitment to sustainability is symbolized in the bicycle and actualized through the company’s advocacy work. They produce the Tour de Fat traveling bike festival, described on their website as a “costumed celebration of human-powered transportation” and Team Wonderbike, a bicycle commuter advocacy program, demonstrating that their love of bikes is more than just a symbol of their commitment to the environment.
New Belgium’s mandate of sustainability doesn’t stop with their own company. As members of 1% for the Planet, they will donate $475,000 to environmental non-profits in 2008. New Belgium also supports innovative technology by offering their land and resources to assist companies such as Solix, a company working on processing bio-diesel from algae, in their research work.
I left New Belgium with that familiar smile I’d seen all around me. I’d only had a few small samples of beer, so I lucidly knew what I was feeling: the spirit of sustainability. New Belgium and its employee-owners infectiously reflect that vibe. Like their website www.followyourfolly.com boldly declares: “Folly is freedom. Folly laughs at the status quo, protests mediocrity.” By taking the chance to cut their own unique path in the craft brew world, they’ve created a company that is living proof that sustainability and profit can indeed go hand in hand.