IN FOCUS: Green Business – Above and beyond

Posted on Jan 1, 2013 :: Green Business
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

Finished malt is sold in bulk or recyclable paper bags. In addition to using only recyclable packaging, 99 percent of all Briess waste streams are recycled. Briess recently received Green Tier certification from the Wisconsin DNR for its environmental performance.

Briess, a leading ingredient supplier to American craft breweries and food manufacturers, recently became the 14th company in the New North region to be awarded Green Tier certification by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The program recognizes environmental performance that goes beyond what is required by law in the areas of health, safety and the environment.

“Entering into the Green Tier program is an important step for Briess that will further help us streamline our operations, set goals and develop additional programs to reduce our overall carbon footprint,” says Gordon Lane, president of Briess Malt & Ingredients Co. of Chilton.

Briess has been actively working on environmental stewardship since it was accepted into the Save Energy Now program of the U.S. Department of Energy in 2005. That same year, it formalized its Green with Briess sustainability program.

“Back when I started with Briess, we started looking at the things we were doing, and asking, ‘how can we become even more green’ in order to help with our customer segments – particularly in the craft brewing segment,” says Lane.

Through process changes and capital improvements, Briess has made significant progress. For example, it has achieved a 30 percent reduction in natural gas use at the Chilton Malthouse since 2006 by installing air-to-air heat exchangers on kilns and implementing new operating procedures in the malt-roasting process.

At the Irish Road Extract Plant, the company accomplished a similar goal by using improved heat exchange systems to recover hot water streams that are reused in cleaning and boiler systems and by recovering heat generated by drying operations and reusing it throughout the plant.

Here are other examples of its environmental stewardship:

» Repiping clean discharge water into surface storm basins, which reduced the need to treat 6 million gallons of water each year.

» Eliminating ozone-damaging greenhouse gases by converting from freon to ammonia refrigeration.

» Recycling 99 percent of all waste streams by sending byproducts to nearby farming operations as cattle feed and fertilizer.

» Providing high-strength waste to the biodigester at a local farm to produce methane that generates a continuous 1.5 megawatts of electricity.

» Working with animal nutritionists to create a market for one of their byproducts, which keeps 1 million pounds from entering the landfill or being land-applied each year.

Taken together, Briess has reduced its energy consumption and emissions by the equivalent of almost 10 million fewer miles being driven each year since 2006.

As the company made progress, it received an Energy Saver award from the U.S. Department of Energy in 2009 and was honored by Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce with a Best Friend of the Environment Award (see Insight on Business, July 2011).

“As a result of that award,” says Lane, “the DNR wanted to come in and talk about Green Tier, and we decided to go ahead with it. One of the great things about Green Tier is that the DNR would look at everything we have permit-wise, and there was a grace period where – if we were not up to standard – we could come up to standard.” It turned out that everything was fine, but the company was able to combine some permits and streamline some reporting, which ultimately saved time and effort.

One of the requirements for Green Tier is to have a formalized Environmental Management Plan. At the recommendation of the DNR, Briess engaged a graduate student at UW-Green Bay, who came on site, interviewed the team and created the formal document. “It was a great way to co-op with the university. The document is a formalized way of saying this is how we do our current business, this is how we look at our environment, and it’s a blueprint for the future about how we execute on what we believe,” says Lane.

Gregg Breese is the DNR environmental assistance coordinator who was the company’s consultant during the application process. “They are a remarkable company,” says Breese. “They were lean to begin with, and they are constantly innovating.”