By Bonnie Washuk, Staff Writer
Sun Journal news story
LEWISTON — From an environmental standpoint, canned beer is better than bottled.
“Beer cans are twice as likely as beer bottles to be recycled,” said Luke Livingston, 33, founder and owner of Baxter Brewing in Lewiston.
Environmentalists agree that cans are recycled more than bottles. Worldwide, 75 percent of aluminum is reused, and more than once.
That’s one reason when Livingston opened Baxter Brewing in 2011 he went with only cans.
Before starting the company Livingston was a craft beer enthusiast, a beer blogger. He saw trends.
“I got press releases of breweries canning beer” in other parts of the country, like California. “They were touting the portability of cans. Cans don’t break and leave glass everywhere.”
The press releases talked about aluminum cans being lighter than bottles. They take less energy to ship and less energy to make.
“I thought, Mainers love those things, too,” Livingston said. “It would probably work here.”
Baxter became the first in New England to brew and sell beer only in cans. It’s a trend others have followed.
Doing business in an environmental friendly way is important, Livingston said. “I was raised to be very aware of the world around me, and my impact on it.”
Livingston has established a number of green policies and goals, including zero waste. With composting and recycling, Baxter has several months a year when no solid waste goes into the dumpster. “We used to have eight-plus dumpsters a month,” he said.
All of the spent grain goes to a cattle farmer, Livingston said. “It’s thousands and thousands of pounds a year.”
All of the “trub,” which is spent organic, non-grain material such as spices, hops and yeast, “is turned into compost instead of going down the drain. It’s pretty awesome,” Livingston said.
Wastewater from the production process is put into a big outdoor tank where it is cleaned.
Baxter has also invested in equipment to use less water to make beer. The average ratio for beer-making is 7 gallons of water for every gallon of beer. “We use 4.2 gallons,” Livingston said.
Reducing water is better for the environment, and it saves money, Livingston said. “When reducing water use by three-sevenths, we’re paying less for water. The equipment has already paid for itself.”
Baxter’s green practices have been noticed.
Last fall, the Maine Conservation Voters presented its annual Community Climate Champion Award to Baxter Brewing for its commitment to make beer-brewing more sustainable.
Other environmental friendly practices at Baxter Brewing include manufacturing in a downtown mill building, part of his reduce-reuse-recycle thinking.
The brewery has energy-efficient lighting, buys electricity from renewable wind power and has steam recovery units in the brew house, which means steam is reused again and again.
Green practices are something customers are interested in, Livingston said. “It’s not only better for the world. It makes good business sense.”
NRCM: Preventing trash better than recycling
Too often environmental discussions about waste center on recycling, “when the focus really should be on waste reduction,” said Sarah Lakeman, Sustainable Maine Project Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
Baxter Brewing makes such a delicious product that it’s unlikely to go to waste, Lakeman said. “And their signature aluminum cans can be recycled into new cans through Maine’s successful bottle redemption program.”
But what sets Baxter apart is that the company strives to reduce and eliminate any sources of waste through its entire production process, she said. The future of waste management is working to prevent waste. Businesses will have a role to play in the waste created from their products.
“Today’s consumers often consider the environmental impacts of their spending choices, so people can feel good about supporting Baxter,” Lakeman said.