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Explore our latest coverage of environmental issues, climate change and more.

The Alchemist Joins National Brewery Climate Declaration

Justin Cash
The Waterbury-based brewery has joined several of its New England compatriots in signing the Brewery Climate Declaration, which emphasizes the environmental and economic benefits of lowering breweries' carbon emissions.

The Alchemist brewery has joined 23 breweries across the country in a pledge to reduce their operations' greenhouse emissions and to join the call for substantive action on climate change.

The Waterbury-based brewery has joined its New England compatriots Smuttynose Brewing Company (New Hampshire), Red Hook Brewing Company (New Hampshire and Washington) and Allagash Brewing Company (Maine) and Aeronaut Brewing Company (Massachussets) in signing the Brewery Climate Declaration, which emphasizes "using less energy, choosing clean energy and investing in new technologies" and recognizes that environmental stewardship and business acumen are not mutually exclusive.

The breweries' pledge is a companion to a larger Climate Declaration, a call-to-action organized by the sustainable business group Ceres, and was highlighted by the Huffington Poston Tuesday.

The declaration is grounded in the premise that climate change poses both risk and opportunity to the $246 billion beer industry. Brewing the beverage can be water and energy intensive, and relies upon crops such as hops and barley that are susceptible to intensifying floods, droughts and generally warming temps. But there are plenty of creative ways to mitigate the threats.

"I think together as breweries we can advocate ... for the acceleration and adoption of sustainable bus practices. That's just really important, because beer production is high impact." - Jen Kimmich, The Alchemist

The Alchemist, for its part, lowers its carbon footprint by sourcing U.S.-grown hops and distributing locally (their rare, flagship Heady Topper has become a Holy Grail for connoisseurs and neophytes alike), sends spent grain to local farmers and offers a blunt directive on its cans: "Don't be a D-bag. Recycle this can."

"This brewery collation that Ceres has created is really important for the future of sustainable brewing," Alchemist co-founder Jen Kimmich said by phone Tuesday. "I think together as breweries we can advocate ... for the acceleration and adoption of sustainable bus practices. That’s just really important, because beer production is high impact."

The brewery is also planning a state-of-the-art wastewater treatment system for its forthcoming brewery in Stowe, according to Kimmich, and is "close to zero waste" at its current operation. "We really don't produce much garbage. For us, we've really been focused on side-streaming as much waste water – tank wash, the liquids and the bio-solids from the bottom of our fermenters – as much as possible, and we compost an incredible amount of water," she said.

It's too soon to say whether the declaration will drive real change or merely hop up eco-minded beer-lovers. One outspoken Vermont environmentalist (and craft-beer lover) offered this punny exclamation:

But Kimmich says she hopes the Alchemist and other breweries send a strong message, and says the declaration is about "showing lawmakers, showing our representatives that businesses do care, and that our businesses depend on sustainable. We can’t keep going the way we’re going. We just can’t."

"We believe that a strong economy and a stable climate go hand in hand," Jenn Vervier, director of strategy and sustainability at New Belgium Brewery in Colorado, added in a release about the declaration. "We've committed to making our business sustainable, and it's more important than ever that businesses engage with policymakers to support forward-thinking climate and energy policies."

Update 5:24 p.m. This post has been updated to include comments from Jen Kimmich.

Angela Evancie serves as Vermont Public's Senior VP of Content, and was the Director of Engagement Journalism and the Executive Producer of Brave Little State, the station's people-powered journalism project.
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