Monday, July 25, 2016

Breweries 2.0 - Organic and LEED Certified

The craft beer scene is booming - with more than 4,200 breweries In the US, small and independent craft brewers now have a 12 percent market share! Not only do some breweries offer organic beer, many breweries also have high sustainability standards - from being powered by solar energy to recycling local grain for the brewing process. 

2015 Craft Beer Growth
Image Credit: Brewer’s Associations

Organic Beer 101

According to Food Republic the organic craft beer industry has grown by more than $30 million in the last decade. Oregon even has an annual Organic Beer Fest designed to raise awareness about organic beer and sustainable living. 

Organic beer is healthier and contributes to sustainability. It just makes you feel better about what you're drinking. But then why is it relatively hard to find?

It’s a well-known fact that being certified organic is demanding and expensive. To make things even more complicated, as of January 2013, a beer needs both certified organic hops and yeast to qualify. reports that some organic brewers are making things even more difficult for themselves supply-wise. California’s Dr. Jekyll’s uses not only organic traditional ingredients, but also super foods, such as acai berry, turmeric and algal oil. “We’ve taken three high growth markets – craft beer, organic and nutraceuticals [KSL1] – and combined them into one product,” says Tom Costa, president & CEO at Dr. Jekyll’s.

Still, there are many breweries who decided to go organic against all odds - here are some of our North Carolina favorites who offer organic brews:
Mother Earth Brewing, Kinston, NC
Pisgah Brewing Company, Black Mountain, NC
Lenny Boy Brewing Company, Charlotte, NC

If you're interested in finding out more about the growing local North Carolina craft beer industry, check out the documentary Brewconomy.

Beer made with renewable energy

Some breweries are taking sustainable brewing to a whole new level - with renewable energy. The Outer Banks Brewing Station in North Carolina is powered by wind energy (the first one in the US!) They pride themselves in being innovative and conscious about the environment, while helping  others learn as much as they can about renewable energy and sustainability. Their 10kW wind turbine will offset approximately 1.2 tons of air pollutants and 250 tons of greenhouse gases, according to their website.

Solar powered breweries are also up and coming. This recently published list of the Top 40 Solar Beer Breweries shows that "solar beer" is popular around the world. North Carolina is listed 3 times! Sierra Nevada Brewery in Mills River (Asheville), NC, Highland Brewing Company also in Asheville and Innovation Brewing in Sylva, NC all boast solar PV systems.

Wind Sign Brew Station
Image Credit: Outer Banks Brewing Station

Integrating recycling into Beer brewing

Did you know that virtually all grain used in brewing beer gets an afterlife? Most of it as feed for beef and dairy cows. There are many more uses for it though - some finds its way into baked goods, some is used in fertilizer, compost, even as a source of energy. And in case you're wondering - the grain is alcohol-free when collected for farms.

Talking about recycling grains - a brewery in Alaska "has installed a specially designed $1.8-million boiler that basically takes the brewer’s leftover grain and burns it to generate electricity. Hence, we guess you could say the brewery is now 'beer-run.' " (Source:

LEED certified Breweries

According to the USGBC, the U.S. Green building Council LEED certification ensures electricity cost savings, lower carbon emissions and healthier environments for the places we live, work, learn, play and worship. LEED’s global sustainability agenda is designed to achieve high performance in key areas of human and environmental health, acting on the triple bottom line - putting people, planet and profit first.

In 2013, Mother Earth, whose founders were committed to environmental sustainability from the very start, became the first brewery to attain LEED Gold Certification.

Mother Earth installed innovative eco-friendly solutions such as solar panels, recyclable carpet, eco-friendly tile, and insulation made of blue jeans.  Eco-flush toilets save hundreds of gallons of water each year, and run on rain water collected in a cistern. The brewery also recycles everything from spent grain (feed for cattle) and the bags the grain comes in (converted to stylish shopping bags by local artisans) to the old wooden bourbon barrels the brewery uses for aging (converted to building materials and art pieces displayed throughout the facility).

Mountain X recently published an article announcing that, "Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.’s Mills River production facility in North Carolina was recently awarded the U.S. Green Building Council’s top certification (Platinum) for environmental responsibility in design, construction methods and ecologically sustainable practices.

Mills River Production Facility Parking Lot with Solar Panels (Image Credit: Sierra Nevada)

Sierra Nevada implemented a number of creative measures that were rewarded in the scoring process, including the installation of two Capstone microturbines. The machines harness the methane produced by the brewery’s on-site wastewater treatment plant for electricity generation to complement that produced by solar arrays in the public parking area and across two-thirds of the packaging facility’s roof."
As you can see, there is a lot of green innovation going on in the beer scene. If you have any favorite breweries not mentioned here or any other brewing innovation you may have observed, please comment below.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

The Rise of Electric Vehicles and why you should purchase one

In recent years the electric vehicle has gained a lot of popularity. What is all the hype about? Is it really worth it to invest in a car just because "it's good for the environment" or the new fashionable thing to buy? Let's start out with the different types of electric vehicles. has a great summary on their website:

HEVs are primarily powered by an internal combustion engine that runs on conventional or alternative fuel and an electric motor that uses energy stored in a battery. The battery is charged through regenerative braking and by the internal combustion engine and is not plugged in to charge.

PHEVs are powered by an internal combustion engine that can run on conventional or alternative fuel and an electric motor that uses energy stored in a battery. The vehicle can be plugged into an electric power source to charge the battery. Some types of PHEVs are also called extended range electric vehicles (EREVs).

EVs use a battery to store the electric energy that powers the motor. EV batteries are charged by plugging the vehicle into an electric power source. EVs are sometimes referred to as battery electric vehicles (BEVs).

The Beginning

Did you know that EVs are a fairly old idea? Here in the U.S., the first successful electric car made its debut around 1890. They used to dominate the auto industry and the first car dealerships were actually exclusively for EVs. Here is a short summary of the history of the EV from

"In the late 1890s electric vehicles (EVs) outsold gasoline cars ten to one. EVs dominated the roads and dealer showrooms. Some automobile companies, like Oldsmobile and Studebaker actually started out as successful EV companies, only later did they transition to gasoline-powered vehicles."

Customers appreciated that they weren't smelly like other gas powered cars, easy to drive and quiet.

So why did EVs disappear? According to, several reasons contributed to its downfall:

"The infrastructure for electricity was almost non-existent outside of city boundaries – limiting EVs to city-only travel. Another contributing factor to the decline of EVs was the addition of an electric motor (called the starter) to gasoline powered cars – finally removing the need for the difficult and dangerous crank to start the engine. Due to these factors, by the end of World War I, production of electric cars stopped and EVs became niche vehicles – serving as taxis, trucks, delivery vans, and freight handlers."

Another important factor was cost. states that, "…by 1912, the gasoline car cost only $650, while an electric roadster sold for $1,750." Also, the discovery of Texas crude oil made gas cheap and readily available for rural Americans. Electric vehicles all but disappeared by 1935.

The Comeback

After so many decades the electrical vehicle finally made a comeback. Several new regulations such as the passage of the 1990 Clean Air Act Amendment or the Energy Policy Act in 1992, sparked a new interest and need in clean alternatives. The Prius, which originated in Japan in 1997 and was released worldwide in 2000, became the world's first mass-produced hybrid electric vehicle.

Not long after, "Tesla Motors, would start producing a luxury electric sports car that could go more than 200 miles on a single charge. In 2010, Tesla received at $465 million loan from the Department of Energy’s Loan Programs Office -- a loan that Tesla repaid a full nine years early -- to establish a manufacturing facility in California. In the short time since then, Tesla has won wide acclaim for its cars and has become the largest auto industry employer in California." (Source:

Why it's good for you and the environment

Clean Alternative
The overall emissions content for EVs is lower but the location and timing of the emissions are better as well as they usually happen during off-peak driving hours at power plants in remote locations. In addition, EVs don't have a tailpipe.

Cost and Savings  
When driving an electrical vehicle, most of the maintenance costs associated with an internal combustion engine are eliminated.

The cost per mile to fuel an EV is approximately one-third to one-quarter the cost of gasoline (on a cost per mile basis). On average, each American spends $2,000 – $4,000 on gas each year. The lack of exhaust systems or oil changes reduces maintenance costs even further. To maintain an electric car, just rotate your tires and keep them properly inflated.

Tax incentives and the mass production of batteries have further brought down the cost.
Domestic Energy Independence 
According to NRG EVGO, EVs also help to increase America’s energy independence. By running on electricity generated by fuels sourced within the United States instead of on foreign fossil fuels,

Quiet and Quick 
An electric car is very quiet and smooth, curbing noise pollution and providing an exhilarating driving experience over long distances. It makes most regular cars seem clunky and outdated.

Image Courtesy of CarLeasingMadeSimple


Advancement in technology continually contributes to more opportunities when it comes to electric cars.

Charge your plug-in electric vehicle by parking it! No need for cords or cards. This wireless charging technology may soon be widespread, thanks to research supported by the Energy Department.

Ford announced that it would introduce 12 new electric cars by the year 2020 with a revised Focus Electric set to arrive later this year. The company is also working on an EV with a range of 200 miles. Hyundai is also expected to release an electric car with a 250 mile range by 2020.

Canada is taking it one step further. Quebec is considering a mandate that would require all homes to include an electric vehicle charging station. Policy makers in Quebec hope that such a dramatic move would jump-start the electric car in Canada.

Plug-In NC

Interested in learning more about EVs in North Carolina? Plug-In NC is a great resource if you're want to know more about the opportunities available to you and your business. Community resources, workplace charging, more info about available vehicles, events and so much more.

They have been working since 2011 to establish North Carolina as a leader in electrified transportation. The taskforce provides a collaborative opportunity for stakeholders to identify and address barriers to plug-in electric vehicle adoption in order to ensure a seamless integration of the vehicles into local communities. 

Plug-In NC was launched through a collaboration of many partners ranging from government, industry, electric utilities, non-profits, and other stakeholders. Advanced Energy and the NC Department of Commerce served as the lead entities for this initiative and benefited from strong partnerships from North Carolina's electric utilities including Duke Energy, North Carolina's Electric Cooperatives, Dominion Power, and the State's ElectriCities.

Future Outlook

Electric Vehicles have a lot of potential for creating a more sustainable future. The US Department of Energy says that if we transitioned all the light-duty vehicles in the U.S. to hybrids or plug-in electric vehicles using our current technology mix, we could reduce our dependence on foreign oil by 30-60%, while lowering the carbon pollution from the transportation sector by as much as 20%.

Today, there are 23 plug-in electric and 36 hybrid models available in a range of sizes, styles, price points and powertrains to suit a wide range of consumers, with more than 234,000 plug-in electric vehicles and 3.3 million hybrids on the road in the U.S.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Wasting Water - A Guide to Conservation and Innovation

Every year on March 22 we celebrate World Water Day. According to the official World Water Day website, this international observance is an opportunity to learn more about water related issues, be inspired to tell others and take action to make a difference. It has been around since 1992 when the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development recommended an international observance. Here is why you should be mindful of your water usage every day and how you can easily conserve water.

Water Usage in the US

The US Geological Survey released a study which reports that the total freshwater and saline-water withdrawals for 2010 (the latest year it surveyed water use) were estimated to be 355,000 million gallons per day. The average American used 88 gallons of water per day – an amount that quickly adds up around the house for things like preparing food, washing clothes, flushing toilets, and watering lawns. 

Water Innovation around the World

In recent years there have been many new innovative technologies which aid people around the world in gaining clean water access and assist them in conserving water. 
Here are some examples that will leave you wondering why no one has thought of this before:
LifeStraw is the award-winning personal water filter, designed to provide you with safe, clean drinking water. The device makes most contaminated or suspect water safe to drink.  LifeStraws are shipped throughout the world to countries in need including Haiti, Pakistan, and Africa but are also be used for camping or hiking trips.
The EcoVolt uses a bioelectric process to treat water and generate biogas energy at the same time! Each reactor unit handles about 20,000 gallons of waste water daily and leverages electrically active microbes.
Lastly, WaterFX offers a HydroRevolution project which uses solar panels to remove the salt from drainage water from farms in California. The excess salt and minerals are turned into usable by-products.

For more revolutionary water technologies read this great water innovation blog from GreenBiz.

Water Saving Tips

So how can YOU help to conserve water? Sure, there are pricey gadgets such as drip irrigation or on demand water heaters, but saving water is mostly easy and cheap. Here are some great tips we have compiled from our parent company Advanced Energy and the EPA:

Fixing Leaks 
On average, an American home can waste more than 11,000 gallons of water every year due to running toilets, dripping faucets, and other household leaks. Nationwide, more than one trillion gallons of water leak from U.S. homes each year. A faucet that drips once every second wastes more than 3,000 gallons of water per year!
Image courtesy of

Every time you take a shower, you also use energy to heat and deliver the water to your showerhead. But you can Shower Better by replacing you old showerhead with a WaterSense labeled model and save water, energy and money.

Only wash full loads of laundry. Use the cold water setting for all general laundry. Only use the hot water setting for bedding, soiled or stained clothes, and diapers.

If you wash one load of laundry each day, an ENERGY STAR® labeled washing machine will save between $65 and $175 in energy costs and up to $100 in water each year.

Did you know? Pre-rinsing dishes may be unnecessary. Most modern dishwashers only need you to remove large bits of food, making it easier on you and your wallet. 

Water Bill
Monitor your water bill for unusually high use. Your bill and water meter are tools that can help you discover leaks and determine your water footprint

Be aware of your water consumption, prioritize water conservation and after a while it will come naturally. Set an example and make every day World Water Day.