A Western Washington University student-led project will ask Bellingham breweries in the coming week to pledge to be more sustainable.
The project’s goal is to encourage all microbreweries in Bellingham to use practices that reduce energy consumption and waste, said Mandy Safstrom, the project leader. If a brewery agrees to the standards set by the project, it will receive a special certification.
The pledge and certification are still being developed, Safstrom said. First, members of the project will tour breweries in Bellingham to gain a sense of the sustainable practices used by the breweries.
After the tour, the group will discuss their findings and project ideas with Sustainable Connections, a local forum where businesses come together to transform business practices to be more sustainable.
The student group will write the pledge in collaboration with Sustainable Connections. The pledge will focus on brewery wastewater and used grains, she said.
Currently, there are three microbreweries in Bellingham, and two more to come. With five breweries in the area, waste is a factor that must not be overlooked, Safstrom said.
The student project will also offer suggestions to breweries on how to be more sustainable.
Boundary Bay Brewery, located at 1107 Railroad Ave., has many sustainable practices in line with the student project and is already a member of Sustainable Connections.
Boundary Bay and Chuckanut Brewery are both Toward Zero Waste businesses. Toward Zero Waste is a campaign initiated by Sustainable Connections that aims to reduce the amount of waste that goes into a landfill, according to its website.
Janet Lightner, general manager of Boundary Bay, said the popular brewery and pub has a robust food-recycling program. The brewery takes part in the Food Plus program, in which all food scraps from businesses are composted. Other breweries in Bellingham, including Chuckanut Brewery, take part in the program as well, said Mari Kemper, owner of Chuckanut Brewery.
“We try to put as much food as we can into the compost. We also recycle our paper, plastic and cans,” Kemper said.
In addition to composting food, both Boundary Bay and Chuckanut breweries make use of their spent grain in a process called a closed-loop, or full-circle system.
The closed-loop system is a process in which grain used to brew the beer at both breweries is given to local dairy farmers and cattle ranchers, who then feed the grain to their livestock. The breweries buy beef, pork and dairy products from those same farmers and serve it in their restaurants, Kemper said.
Lightner expressed interest in students asking breweries to pledge to be sustainable.
“What is neat about being in a university town is students could maybe teach us something,” Lightner said. “I’d be excited to see if the students are going to be doing some research, [as] they may have more time than us to focus on greener technology, and perhaps sharing it back with us."
A collaborative effort between students and breweries to be more sustainable is something Lightner sees as a positive force for businesses to be more environmentally cautious. She hopes someday environmentally sustainable business practices will be seen as simply doing the right thing, where certification is not needed.
“With or without certification, I would just hope that people try to be environmentally responsible,” Lightner said.