For Brewery Vivant, brewing delicious Belgian ales is less about profit and more about doing the right thing for the environment and local community. For instance, you won’t find their Grand Rapids brewery in a sprawling complex downtown. Instead, you’ll find it tucked inside an old-world brick building in the city’s historic East Hills neighborhood, a location that allows patrons to leave the car at home and walk or bike over to grab a pint.
Belgian Beer, Green Brewery
The pub itself is housed inside a renovated chapel, a choice which had the dual intent of saving resources and preserving one of the neighborhood’s most historic buildings. The interior retains much of its chapel origins, with vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows adorning the walls, and polished concrete on the floor below; another design choice that saved resources. The style is altogether reminiscent of the monasteries of Southern Belgium and Northern France, the regions that inspire Vivant’s Belgian ales and French cuisine.
As you might suspect, owners Kris and Jason Spaulding have always made sustainability a cornerstone of their business. “The business was founded with sustainability as a value, as one of three aspects of our business plan” said Kris, who is also Vivant’s Sustainability Director. Together, they worked with the US Green Building Council for over a year to gain LEED certification for Brewery Vivant. The process entailed installing everything from low-flow toilets to high-efficiency HVAC systems equipped with CO2 sensors, all of which put a significant dent in the brewery’s water and energy use.
The process culminated with Brewery Vivant receiving LEED Silver certification in 2012 which, unbeknownst to them, made Vivant the first commercial microbrewery in the nation to earn the distinction. “LEED certification was a perfect fit for us, but we didn’t know we would be the first!”
Brewery Vivant also became a Certified B Corporation in May of 2014, a distinction reserved for businesses that are truly working to be a force for good. The designation, administered by Wayne, Pa.-based nonprofit B Lab, demonstrates through reporting and third-party verification that companies meet “rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.” The certification process entails completing a lengthy assessment that measures a company’s impact on all of its stakeholders – investors, employees, suppliers, customers, community and the earth.
Becoming a B Corporation, as well as LEED certified, were just the first of many milestones Kris and Jason have achieved in their pursuit of making Brewery Vivant as clean, lean, and green as possible. Since its founding, they have set a number of sustainability goals for the brewery, including becoming an entirely zero waste business.
Currently, only .88% of the brewery’s waste is sent to a landfill or incinerator, as virtually all of the waste from the restaurant side of the business is composted or recycled. As for the brewing process, Vivant gets as close to zero waste as possible. All of their packaging materials, such as pallets, grain bags, cardboard boxes, are either recycled or composted. And the leftover malt and adjuncts are donated to a local farmer who feeds the grain to his show cattle. “He brings a grain trailer, we fill it, and he comes and picks it up. A lot of breweries give that grain to farmers as it helps supplement their animals’ diets.” said Kris. “We [also] have a grain silo that helps reduce the number of grain bags we use”.
Equal effort is made to ensure that the ingredients going into the brewery are just as green as the brewing process. That’s why 63.5% of all the brewery’s expenses go to locally owned businesses, including Michigan farmers who supply them with everything from tomatoes to hops. It’s overarching goal is to purchase 90% of its goods from within 250 miles of Grand Rapids, a milestone which would not only keep more money in the local community, but also significantly reduce Vivant’s carbon footprint.
Carbonation: Great for Beer, Bad for the Planet
In order to get a better understanding of the brewery’s impact on the environment, Vivant published a report detailing the carbon footprint of a single can of their flagship beer, Farm Hand Farmhouse Ale. According to their findings, one can of Farm Hand produces 418.97 grams of equivalent carbon dioxide between the brewing process and distribution. But Farm Hand’s footprint drops dramatically, to 341.78 grams, when consumed on tap at the pub as it bypasses both the canning process and retail distribution.
The vast majority of these emissions, 38%, come from the electricity and natural gas used in the brewing process, a figure that Vivant hopes to cut into by installing 192 solar panels on its roof by early summer. Once up and running, the solar array is expected to meet 20% of their energy requirements, putting Brewery Vivant further down the path to becoming a fully sustainable brewery.
Suddenly feeling a little thirsty? You can enjoy Brewery Vivant’s refreshing Belgian ales at the brewery on 925 Cherry St SE in Grand Rapids or pick some up on store shelves throughout Michigan and Chicago!
Feeling inspired to clean out your garage and build your own homebrewing emporium? Then you’ll probably need one of our dumpster rentals in Grand Rapids to make space for the kettle and kegs! Give us a call at 1-866-284-6164 and we’ll set you up with the right dumpster to turn your garage into a beer lover’s paradise.