Why use LCA for sustainability? A Q&A with Stone and Wood Brewing Co

Last year, James Perrin, Sustainability Manager at fellow BCorp Stone & Wood Brewing Co, approached Edge to undertake a life cycle assessment (LCA) of their iconic Pacific Ale beer. We asked him why he wanted an LCA, what he learned, and what’s next on S&W’s sustainability journey.

Before your LCA, what had Stone and Wood worked on previously, sustainability-wise?

Our first few years we focussed on production efficiencies, particularly water, energy, waste, and wastewater treatment. Over the years as we’ve invested time and money in these areas, and we’ve become quite an efficient brewer – with things like upgrading our gas burners, an efficient ammonia-based refrigeration system, a 100Kw solar system, and a UFRO water recycling system. During that time, we certified as a BCorp to really drive home our sustainability commitment

Why did you commission your Life Cycle Assessment for Pacific Ale?

Our focus has now broadened to ‘outside the brewery walls’ where we are looking up and down our supply chain to see how we can work with suppliers and partners to lower our footprint, so we wanted to start to understand the broader impact of our production. We decided to do it on Pacific Ale as a product for a few reasons… firstly it is by far our biggest volume beer so makes sense from a production standpoint. Secondly, we were particularly interested to look at the effect of different packaging options – bottles cans and kegs – would be on the overall footprint. Finally, we’d seen some other breweries undertake LCAs and for their beers and we wanted to see how we compared (for example fellow B-Corp New Belgium did it for their Fat Tire Ale.

What did you learn, and were there any particular surprises?

We learned that whilst what we do at our brewery is important, our upstream and downstream impacts are really substantial. In particular the production of glass and aluminium for bottles and cans are the two huge impacts that we found we need to keep a close eye on. We also discovered that kegs have less than half the carbon footprint of bottles or cans, which aligns with our view that it’s always best to drink fresh on tap!

How are you putting what you learned into practice?

We’ve already started working with our bottle supplier to return our glass to their plant FOR recycling into new bottles. We’re also looking at how we can reduce our reliance on LPG for our boilers, given that they have a big impact on our CO2 footprint as well. One of the biggest outcomes has been the decision to share our findings with the Independent Brewers Association, which will hopefully encourage some of our fellow brewers to join with us to create industry-wide initiatives. That could include, for example, using our collective buying power to drive change across our ingredient supply chain.

To find out how LCA could help you on your sustainability journey, contact joana@edgeenvironment.com. Or to stay up to date on sustainability issues follow us on LinkedIn.

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