Fewer bottles to sell mean fewer items in storage, fewer long-distance trips by truckers to transport those containers and less repackaging.
“We’ll fill up any bottle as long as it’s marked properly,” said brewmaster Tom Young. “It’s a greener way to go.”
That’s not all Great Basin is doing these days as a friend of the environment. The brewery has ramped up its glass, paper and barley recycling. Even the trub, or the heavy fats and protein left over from brewing, contains vitamins that can be used in animal feed, Young said.
An increasing community concern for economical use of Earth’s resources has businesses and agencies interested in becoming more conscientious stewards in a variety of ways. A recent survey of 1,000 businesses in three different markets by BGJ Architecture and Engineering shows more companies are seeking to incorporate better green practices as a way to keep costs down.
BJG president Pete Blakely said the firm was interested in finding out what clients wanted in terms of becoming more energy efficient and their motivation in all three of the firm’s markets: Reno, Las Vegas and Pleasanton, Calif.
“The main reason was, if people want to do things for public perception, they would want to implement things that are highly visual,” Blakely said.
Overall, that type of “eyewash,” according to the survey, seems less important to businesses than a genuine concern for the environment, he said.
The survey revealed that in northern Nevada 83 percent of businesses expected a return on their investment. Nearly 59 percent made changes for employee satisfaction and 31.5 percent did so in pursuit of community recognition.
“They really want to do it because it has legitimate energy savings or a measurable return for their dollar … which was actually refreshing,” Blakely said. “It’s people doing things that are going to benefit the environment and save the energy as opposed to things that are much ado.”
Young and Great Basin’s sustainability manager Jennifer McDuffee recently began implementing practical changes at the Sparks brewery, such as energy-efficient light bulbs and cutting back on their water supply and the need to reheat water for brewing. McDuffee, a former University of Nevada, Reno student, was hired in her position to create ways to encourage “green thinking.”
Great Basin also takes part in community recycling and clean-up efforts such as Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful and helping Sparks crews with Christmas tree recycling.
Other entities are using new methods of energy conservation to keep costs down for customers.
According to Paul Miller, manager of operations and water quality at The Truckee Meadows Water Authority, the agency’s current power bill is $6.6 million a year. To help keep it down, TMWA pumps water into its storage tanks during off-peak hours, typically from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m. That can generate a cost savings on its power bill of about 10 percent, or about $700,000, Miller said.
But one green practice TMWA is particularly proud of is its hydroelectric generation. TMWA generates more than half of its own power. In fiscal year 2006, TMWA consumed more than 56,640,000 kilowatt hours.
“We’re expanding the size of the canal so we can get full gravity flow,” Miller said. “We’re keeping costs low. Hydroelectric is huge for green energy.”
Also, a project currently under construction is the Highland Canal. Miller said it’s anticipated that improvements to the canal along the Mogul bypass and feeding water to the Chalk Bluff water treatment plant will also conserve energy, save $400,000 in power expenses and produce a 7 to 12 percent rate-of-return on investment.
While some agencies may see such return for going green, it may not always help financially but it offers an ethical satisfaction.
Young said it’s likely more costly for Great Basin to engage in these practices than cost-effective.
“We don’t get paid for (these things),” Young said. “In the long run … it’s not something in our business plan that’s going to make Great Basin more profitable. … But it’s the right thing to do.”