Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.
Friday, September 16, 2011 11:45 AM
Whisky fuels lots of things—rebellions, country and western songs, and Shane MacGowan, to name just a few. Now it’s going to power 9,000 homes in Scotland.
More specifically, whisky byproducts are going to power the homes, in the distillery-rich region of Speyside, by helping to fuel a local biomass energy plant.
“Waste products from around 16 of the area’s 50 distilleries will be used at the site, including well-known brands such as Glenlivet, Chivas Regal, Macallan, and Famous Grouse,” the Guardian reports.
Spent grains from the whisky distilling process, known as draff, will be burned along with wood to create electricity at the combined heat and power (CHP) plant. Another byproduct, a high-protein liquid residue called pot ale, will be made into a syrup for animal feed—which will be conveniently made at a plant next door.
Construction of the biomass plant is set to begin soon, the London Press Service reported last month, and it should be up and running by early 2013.
The Scots aren’t the only whisky makers who are seriously thinking green. On this side of the pond (where we spell it with an “e,” thank you), fine bourbon whiskey distiller Maker’s Mark has made waves with its sustainability initiatives, which according to Inhabitat include biogas reuse, aggressive waste reduction, an on-site nature preserve, and a mostly local, no-GMO grain supply chain.
(Thanks, World Rivers Review.)
Sources: The Guardian, London Press Service, Inhabitat
, licensed under
Thursday, July 14, 2011 2:50 PM
A growing number of beer makers are incorporating green practices in their brewing operations, but a couple of brothers setting up a brewery in Chicago are setting their sights even higher, reports the Chicago Reader: They’re aiming for a zero-waste facility.
The key is that the New Chicago Brewing Company is not a freestanding operation but part of The Plant, a former meatpacking facility that is being renovated to house a bunch of symbiotic businesses under one roof. One makes pickles, one makes kombucha tea, and one is an aquaponics operation that will produce tilapia, greens, mushrooms, and herbs. The Reader reports:
The idea is to turn the whole compound into a zero-waste facility. The heat for brewing New Chicago’s beer will come from an anaerobic digester, which uses bacteria to convert organic waste—produced in the building and by neighboring food businesses—to biogas (and sludge, which becomes fertilizer). The gas is then cleaned, compressed, and run through a high-pressure turbine (repurposed from a military fighter jet engine) to create electricity and 850-degree steam. The brewery, in turn, will produce spent grains—which can be used to feed the tilapia, grow mushrooms, and feed the digester—and carbon dioxide—which will be piped to the plants in the building to make them grow faster.
Sounds like a great idea, though it has a ways to go yet. The brothers, Samuel Evans and Jesse Edwin Evans, don’t expect to be brewing beer till March 2012, and The Plant’s website shows pretty clearly that the facility is a DIY work in progress. But Samuel Evans figures that ultimately their production costs will be “insanely lower—like 75 percent lower” than a conventional brewery.
Once they’re up and running, New Chicago plans to produce 12,000 barrels of beer in the first year, to be sold to city bars and liquor stores. The Evanses also hope to sell beer on-site in a tasting room and to help aspiring brewers make and market their own concoctions.
It’ll be up to beer aficionados to decide how stellar the suds are. But if the Evans brothers realize their ambitions, New Chicago will help set a new standard for sustainable breweries—and others businesses too. “Nothing leaves our brewery except beer,” they write on the New Chicago website. “Imagine if that were true for all production businesses.”
Source: Chicago Reader, The Plant, New Chicago Brewing Company
Diagram by Matt Bergstrom.
Friday, April 02, 2010 9:41 AM
Berkeley, California, is proving that municipal composting of urban food and yard waste is possible—but the city’s program is also experiencing growing pains, according to “Compost Confidential” in the Northern California environmental magazine Terrain:
Good ideas—like enriching the soil of organic farms with compost made from urban food waste—are not necessarily meshing with other good ideas, like using compostable plant-based plastics rather than disposable petroleum-based plastics. Pesticides approved for use on lawns are persisting all the way through the industrial composting process and contaminating the end product, making it unsuitable for organic agriculture. And the development of alternative composting technologies—namely biogas digesters—is provoking a debate over what food and yard waste should be used for.
In other words, large-scale composting is not as simple as it might seem—and it might not always be as grass-roots as some advocates hope. Terrain points out that “composting is an up-and-coming industry” that corporate waste haulers are eager to get into. Texas-based Waste Management Inc. has invested in British Columbia’s Harvest Power, the largest food and yard waste composting facility in North America.
Other cities are getting into the act. Portland, Oregon, plans to start a pilot food-waste program this spring, according to Sustainable Industries, which also reports that Portland, Corvallis, and Salem, Oregon, already have limited commercial food-waste collection.
In related news, Grist reported on April 1 that McDonald’s ditch a planned composting program “after scientists confirmed that no item on the McDonald’s menu is compostable.” Now that smells funny.
Source: Terrain, Sustainable Industries (article not available online), Grist
Image by John Winfield, licensed under Creative Commons.
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