When it comes to MillerCoors and the environment, there are four main ways the company is striving to limit its impact: Reduce water usage; develop sustainable packaging; lower energy usage and carbon emissions; and strive for zero waste from production.
Notably, the company, which is the second-largest beermaker in the U.S., reuses or recycles 98 percent of the waste created by its breweries.
It goes without saying that water is key to brewing beer. And indeed MillerCoors makes much of its proximity to Rocky Mountain springs and Lake Michigan. But the company has made a commitment to reduce the amount of water it uses at its production facilities.
Its Texas brewery has a water-to-beer ratio of 3.59 barrels of water for each barrel of beer produced, which is tops among the company’s plants. Other breweries in its fleet have a water-to-beer ratio of about four to one.
The company has partnered with The Nature Conservancy to create a long-term plan to address water conservation. The program will help the company’s barley farmers at the Silver Creek Watershed in Idaho be more efficient.
The company had also made a commitment to reduce the amount of packaging it uses to sell its beer. Part of that commitment means using more recyclable and renewable materials in the packaging, and less water and energy to produce it.
The company now uses 11 percent less cardboard for its 12-pack bottled folding cartons at two of its breweries. That saves the equivalent of 20,700 trees a year. The company has also reduced the diameter of the end of the aluminum cans it uses to sell its beer. Annually, that small adjustment saves 10.4 million pounds of aluminum that won’t need to be recycled.
MillerCoors has created a partnership with RecycleBank, which gives incentives to encourage people, communities and companies to be more environmentally-sensitive. When customers recycle MillerCoors products, they receive redeemable points that they can use to buy branded gear.
Energy and carbon
MillerCoors is committed to reducing its carbon footprint, lowering its emissions and focusing on renewable energy. In fact, the company has set a goal of reducing its total energy use by 15 percent by 2015. To that end, the company is upgrading its breweries and looking at other ways to increase the efficiency of its operations.
At its Milwaukee plant, the company installed an ammonia compressor that saves energy by automatically controlling pressure and temperature. The compressor saves 3.3 million kilowatt hours.
The company is using heat produced at its Leinenkugel brewery to pre-heat boiler water. That heat would otherwise be released into the atmosphere as exhaust. At the company’s Texas brewery, it upgraded the ammonia refrigeration system, which reduces energy use by 3.6 percent each year.
The merger of the Miller and Coors companies has also provided energy savings, notably in reducing the number of miles the beer has to travel to reach customers. Beer that was previously produced in two breweries is now spread out over eight breweries around the country.
MillerCoors is also working with its distributors to reduce energy consumption. One distributor, Powers Distributing Co., recently added 15 hybrid biofuel-electric trucks to its fleet.
The company participates in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Climate Leaders program, and it has renewed its pledge to reduce corporate-wide greenhouse gas emissions by eight percent by 2015.
As mentioned above, 98 percent of the waste produced at MillerCoors' plants is recycled or reused. That includes glass, paperboard, plastics, metals and other byproducts.
For example, leftover barley malt, or spent grain, is sold to local farms for animal feed. The company sells brewers’ yeast to food companies to be used in canned soups, frozen entrees and pet food.
Other byproducts are used to fertilize fields at the company’s production facilities.
In some cases, MillerCoors’ employees have taken the initiative. At the company’s Georgia brewery, employees formed a recycling and sustainability team. As part of the team, they created a wood recycling program that converts wood scrap into yard mulch. The team also recycles plastic, including hard hats and safety glasses.
In the same vein, MillerCoors is using a novel method to produce fuel-grade ethanol. Yeast naturally produces ethanol during the brewing process. And since 1995, the company’s Golden, Colo. brewery has been extracting ethanol from its waste and converting it into 200-proof fuel-grade ethanol. The company sells it to front-range refineries. In 2008, the company produced 1.7 million gallons of ethanol.
For more info on MillerCoors and the environment, check out the environmental section of the company’s website.
Editor’s note: MillerCoors is a Mother Nature Network sponsor.