May 062009
Authors: Ashley Robinson

The New Belgium Brewing Company is known nationally for its sustainability-in-business and unlike other companies and their profit-only approach to business, New Belgium employees said, the company focuses on people and the planet first, then profit.

Wednesday Katie Wallace, a sustainability specialist representing New Belgium, came to CSU Wednesday to explain the company’s triple-bottom business model, a model she said works “to create true success and happiness in our world.”

“True wealth to New Belgium is being able to experience the outdoors, and success is being able to share that wealth with people, plants and animals,” said Wallace, who works to develop new ways the brewery can be more sustainable and green.

New Belgium strives to keep the environment safe by using sustainable energy from a wind farm in Wyoming, which is available to all Fort Collins residents through New Belgium’s grid. The company uses an on-location, low energy-use water treatment plant to filter its own water.

The company is also participating in the FortZED (Zero Energy District) Project — a local program where all the energy consumed in an area is produced with a renewable method. FortZED, a district covering the downtown river corridor, Old Town Fort Collins and the CSU campus, was created in 2004 as an area that fosters the reduction of energy use and increased conservation.

Following this idea, New Belgium is working to reduce its carbon footprint by 25 percent by focusing on glass production and sustainable agriculture. It is also developing a means of using solar energy.

“Every little bit helps,” said freshman business major Kenton Harder, who attended Wallace’s talk in the Clark Building. “New Belgium is a stepping stone to show that other businesses can do it too.”

The brewery also works to encourage sustainability in Fort Collins by promoting bicycling, recycling and saving household energy –/turning off lights and unplugging electronic devices when not in use and line-drying clothes instead of using a dryer.

Additionally, New Belgium’s approach to employment is unique. The company is entirely employee owned, and employee benefits include a case of beer once a week and access to a ping-pong table and chessboard in the brewery.

“We use natural sunlight to light up the facility as much as we can,” Wallace said, of a practice that she thought added to the already positive work atmosphere. “I really think it helps people’s moods and their enjoyment, and it saves energy.”

The company has worked closely with CSU in the past in its green efforts. In order to develop Mothership Wit, their organic beer, they had to hunt down organic hops. New Zealand was the closest source they could find.

To solve the problem of distance they joined forces with a CSU graduate Alli Hamm, who was interested in developing a means of locally growing organic hops and received funding for her research from New Belgium.

Drawing from more local sources, New Belgium works closely with a farmer in Paonia, near Grand Junction, who grows organic hops for the company.

Those who attended Wallace’s talk said they supported the brewery’s efforts to go green.

“I’m impressed with the public-private partnership of environmental change that New Belgium has formed,” said Ph.D. student and member of the Environment Sociology Club Andy Prelog.

Staff writer Ashley Robinson can be reached at

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