In 2015, The Iowa Wine and Beer Promotion Board published a report estimating that craft beer production in Iowa was going to grow 500% by the year 2019. While this has the potential for a great economic impact in the state, brewing beer is a very resource intensive and wasteful process that has the potential for significant negative environmental impacts. The Iowa Waste Reduction Center (IWRC) at the University of Northern Iowa, with 30 years of experience working with Iowa small businesses, developed a new program to combat these potential issues head-on by creating the Iowa Green Brewery Certification.
The certification program works by IWRC staff visiting an Iowa craft brewery and conducting a free audit checking for various environmental and sustainability practices in five categories:
Applicable environmental regulations
Water quality and conservation
Resources and solid waste management
Direct assistance is also provided to each brewery as needed with environmental compliance, waste reduction, grant seeking and pollution prevention.
After the audit, the IWRC generates a final report outlining findings of the audit and includes recommendations. A numerical score (based on a matrix developed with assistance from 14 craft breweries and the Iowa Brewers Guild) is also calculated. Breweries that receive a score above 65 are certified. There are four levels of certification: bronze, silver, gold and platinum. Certified breweries are awarded a certificate and a window cling designating their level of certification. Recognition is also given via multiple digital and traditional media outlets.
In its first year of operation, the Iowa Green Brewery Certification has conducted 13 audits and certified seven breweries. The success of the program has garnered both statewide and national attention, was awarded the 2017 Commitment to Iowa Award from the Iowa Recycling Association, and two other states are in the process of developing similar programs based on the Iowa Green Brewery Certification.
In 2018, the program looks to grow and expand further by adding a new summer internship program. This internship, which is a partnership between the IWRC and the national Brewers Association (BA), will be a 6-8 week program where a junior or senior level University of Northern Iowa student will directly assist 3-4 breweries by inputting their production data into benchmarking tools developed by the BA.
If you’re thinking of opening a new craft brewery or know someone who is, please don’t hesitate to contact the IWRC for help at iwrc.uni.edu/green-brewery.