Sunday, April 15, 2012

Do you Believe in Magic?

I do, but not in the pull-a-rabbit-out-of-a-hat kind of way. I believe in man-made magic.

I believe in The Magic of Beer.

The Blue Economy is an organization that began as a research project in 1994. It was based on using Nature's Design Principles to find sustainable solutions for society. Its purpose now, is to develop and test business models that can be implemented into society with positive affects on the three pillars of sustainability - social, environmental, and economical.

Today, the majority of beer industry sales are contributed to a handful of producers (Anheuser-Busch InBev, SABMiller, etc), where China is the world's largest beer brewing country. So how does this affect Canada?  China is also currently the largest importer of Canadian malt barley. According to the Globe and Mail, China produces more than 43 billion litres of beer a year, and has purchased an average of 386,000 tonnes of Canadian malt barley each year for the past decade. For the last 40 years, The Canadian Wheat Board has had sole rights to sell grains to China, but as of August 1st, 2012, this, and the sole rights to purchasing wheat and barley in Western Canada will end, which could impact local breweries in various ways.

But back to sustainability. With the top producers owning a high percentage of the market share, and sustainability becoming more important to how society uses the world's resources, the onus is on them to develop more sustainable methods to producing their beer - but does sustainability have a place in local, craft breweries too?

Jim Lueders, the main focus of The Blue Economy's Magic of Beer, believes so. He has developed an innovative business model that can build and operate a small brewery for as little as $120 000, use much of its waste as feed for chicken, pigs, algae, mushroom farming, creating bread dough, and veggie sausages, all resulting in craft beer that follows the traditional brewing process of the German Purity Law in which beer is brewed from malt, hops, yeast and water. The Blue Economy's basic ground rules for a sustainable business model are all met - everything that enters the brewing facility generates more food, water, energy and jobs.

If local brewery processes were more along these lines, the resulting economic benefits could be vast. Bridge Brewing, in Halifax, Nova Scotia has taken up The Blue Economy's ZERI philosophy and is building a sustainable brewery while documenting all of its related business decisions in an open sustainability blog. Another example of a local brewery that considers sustainability in its process is Steam Whistle Brewery. As mentioned in a previous post, they use beer bottles that are made of 30% more glass than regular bottles, making them stronger and more re-usable, which has resulted in a large percentage of bottle returns. In regards to waste, local farmers are able to pick up their used barley husks to be used for animal feed.

What will it take for other local breweries to follow suit, and adopt Jim Lueders' Blue Economy, sustainable brewing process? Will the Canadian Wheat Board's ending monopoly have an impact? Are other local, Ontario breweries working towards higher sustainability? Doing so is a very real opportunity to help local, economic development.