Wednesday, February 29, 2012

What LEED Means to Us

This entry is cross-posted from the Brewery Vivant blog.

We recently received our LEED Silver (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification at Brewery Vivant and found out at the end of the process that we are the first commercial microbrewery in the United States to do so (or as Mayor Heartwell put it, the first in the galaxy). That is pretty cool. However, we did not go through this process just to have a marketing tool to talk about. We see this plaque that hangs on our wall as a symbol of the way we want to run our business.

LEED design takes more into account than just using high efficiency appliances. It looks at the project as a whole including diverting demolition waste, using earth friendly materials, proximity to public transportation, and creating enjoyable work environments for employees. We see it as a holistic approach to business that weighs how businesses fit into a community. Our intent from the beginning was to build a neighborhood brewery and it all started with the site selection.

It would have been much cheaper and easier to build a pub from the ground up on a new site outside the city limits. But what fun would that be? The atmosphere we have created by utilizing the existing historic architecture is priceless. As far as our brewing facility, it would have been far cheaper to rent some warehouse space for $2 a sq ft in some industrial park. But then we would not be able to give the personal tours of our process to the people that visit our pub. The way we did things creates a whole and unique experience.

The LEED principles also coincide with “triple bottom line” thinking. In this business model, for each decision a company makes there are three areas considered. While the traditional model looks at just the financial profitability, we also consider the environmental impact, and the impact on our neighborhood. For example, if we need to make a widget the traditional business model would say find the cheapest source for the components to make that widget, period. While we do look at lowering the cost of materials when we can, we additionally consider with equal weight if there are environmentally friendly options and if there are local suppliers we can purchase from. If we can make an equal quality product and spend our dollars in the local economy that is a win-win that we may be willing to spend a bit more for. The overall impact may outweigh the short term gain of getting ingredients from overseas. We are not perfect. Sometimes we make decisions we regret or find that we have to get certain ingredients from outside the area to get the results we need. However we do consider such things and we will report on our progress annually in our sustainability report "Beer the Change" which we just published.

We believe a brewery can have a positive impact on a neighborhood. Not only are we a significant employer, but we hire people from right in the neighborhood. We recently figured out that over half of our staff live within walking distance (less than a mile), and three-fourths live within biking distance of the brewery (less than 3 miles). In 2011 we donated over 10% of our net profits to local charities. We focus our energies on supporting charities and groups that have impact in our immediate neighborhood. While there are so many good causes out there, we have found that we can make a larger impact if we narrow our focus and support ones that coincide closely with our principles.

My wife Kris and I took a lot of time to plan this brewery. While taking that time was frustrating at moments, it really helped us focus our business to be exactly what we wanted it to be. We started with the end in mind first. We asked ourselves questions like “Once we are successful, what do we want people to say about our business?" - “What do we want to be known for?” - “What do we want to be best in the world at?” We knew that we wanted this to be our lifetime work. We wanted to be able to look back after being open for 20 years and be proud of what we were able to achieve. Proud of what we have given back to the community. Proud that we had as low a negative impact on our environment as we could manage. And do this all while having fun and making fantastic beer that makes people happy.

We are grateful for everyone that has supported us in this journey so far. We look forward to that 20 year mark of being your neighbor.


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