Incorporating environmentally sustainable practices at local businesses doesn’t always mean expensive upgrades. Businesses can take small steps, such as thinking through the impact their choices make when building or remodeling. On a recent tour of Mother Road Brewing Company’s Flagstaff facility, the Local First Arizona team learned how this popular spot incorporates sustainability without expensive upgrades and that brings immediate benefit to their bottom line. Here are some ways that Mother Road benefits.
- They cut down on construction costs. During the process of converting an old steam laundry facility to a brewery, Mother Road saved much of the materials from the original facility, including concrete flooring and wooden 2x4’s, so they could re-use the materials in the renovation. Security grating on the old windows was turned into fencing for the brewery and for a retail display at the neighboring Flagstaff Bicycle Revolution. This allowed Mother Road to avoid the expense of buying new material for re-construction, while keeping these materials out of the landfill. Mother Road also committed to finding creative ways to re-use material around the community. They avoided sending 1,300 square feet of four-inch thick concrete to the landfill. This also eliminated the expense of having a construction dumpster.
- They strengthened their connection to the community. Where did all of that concrete end up? Mother Road turned its problem of excess concrete into an opportunity to work with other groups in the community. Of the remaining concrete, 60% of it was taken to build a retaining wall on North San Francisco Street, giving the material a useful secondary life. 20% was donated to the Flagstaff Master Gardener Class for raised garden beds and water features. The remaining 20% was loaded and hauled by Flagstaff fire fighters for a training exercise and was eventually sent to a landscaping company to be crushed and used for paving.
In its day-to-day operations, Mother Road’s sustainable practices provide opportunities for community collaboration. The brewery donates all of its spent grain, a by-product of the brewing process, to Plowing Ahead, a farm in Camp Verde, to use as feed for their cattle. The employees from Mother Road often buy the meat from the same cows that feed on their grain at Plowing Ahead for company parties and personal groceries. In addition to making tasty local meat, the relationship between Mother Road and Plowing Ahead keeps 1,100 pounds of spent grain out of the landfill every day that they brew and keeps the price of Mother Road’s kegs down by $3-5 each.
- They save money on energy bills. Mother Road has been able to reduce their energy use through passive energy-saving techniques that do not require large initial investment. One easy strategy is that they designed the building to allow plentiful natural light and reduce the need to have artificial lighting constantly turned on. They also direct the heat generated by the boiler room into the main brewhouse to keep it warm, which decreases their heating bill by $100 a month.
- They got recognition. For their success in eliminating much of the waste in the re-construction of the old Milum building through creative re-use projects, Mother Road Brewing company was awarded a green building award for construction projects by the Coconino County Sustainable Building Program in 2011.
- They created a foundation for sustainable growth. With plans to expand to a larger facility and ramp up production, Mother Road’s environmental impacts will be larger in the near future. By embracing practical sustainable practices from an early stage, the company has already laid the groundwork for larger environmental initiatives to reduce some of this impact. With increased production comes increased water and chemical use, so Mother Road is investigating various water reuse methods. They are also considering using solar power and are trying to find additional ways of recovering and re-using the heat produced in the brewing process. These potential higher investment initiatives have only become possible because Mother Road began with the smaller, cost-effective sustainable practices. Mother Road Brewing is showing the way for other small businesses by proving it can be practical to go green.