Sierra Nevada Brewery gets top EPA honor

Brewery CEO/President Ken Grossman weighs in on green award

Ken Grossman stands before SNB’s huge, state-of-the-art HotRot composting machine.

Ken Grossman stands before SNB’s huge, state-of-the-art HotRot composting machine.

photo by christine g.k. lapado

The green dozen
In honor of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 40th anniversary, the agency held an awards ceremony in Los Angeles on Dec. 2 recognizing a dozen environmental leaders in the EPA’s Pacific Southwest region. Of the 12 people and businesses presented with the prestigious awards, nine were from California, including outgoing Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who won the Climate Change Champion award for his groundbreaking efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and promote solar power, including signing the 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32).

Also weighing in for California was Chico’s own Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., which was named Green Business of the Year for its “environmental leadership in the brewing industry,” as an EPA press release put it. Among other stellar green feats aiming for zero waste, the brewery keeps 99.5 percent of its solid waste out of the landfill through such means as recycling and composting, and 85 percent of Sierra Nevada’s electricity comes from renewable power (you’ve seen SNB’s many solar panels, no doubt). The brewery also was recently recognized by the Platinum Sacramento Area Sustainable Business program for its green transportation policies (see “Earthwatch,” page 18).

I recently talked with SNB CEO/President Ken Grossman, who deferred to the brewery’s sustainability coordinator, Cheri Chastain, on the matter of the award. Chastain went to L.A. to accept the award and participate in a panel discussion on the history of the EPA and environmental issues facing the Pacific Southwest (Chastain’s words in just a bit).

Grossman took me on a tour of his business’ newest green innovations, after modestly telling me, “It’s nice to be acknowledged [by the EPA]. We appreciate it. We’ve always had the feeling that we try to do the right thing.”

I saw the brewery’s composting area, featuring a gigantic, state-of-the-art HotRot composting machine, which SNB got four months ago. The HotRot converts the brewery’s restaurant scraps, landscaping green-waste and used hops and malt into usable soil amendment in only 12-14 days.

Grossman walked us out to the brewery’s impressive organic garden—full of rows of leafy greens—which is overseen by gardener Cheetah Tchudi. Produce from the garden has been served in SNB’s restaurant since mid-2010. The garden was recently doubled in size—to two acres.

“Our hope is that we’ll be able to produce most of the herbs and vegetables for the restaurant … once we get the second acre into production,” offered Grossman, who, incidentally, is the subject of a new book by Chico State professor Rob Burton, called Hops and Dreams: The Story of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. (available at Lyon Books). Grossman said an on-site greenhouse is also in the works.

“It makes you kind of stop and say, ‘My action has impact,’” said Chastain of the EPA award and panel experience. “You realize there are 12 other award recipients that have done similar things, and that every action by every person has the potential to have a positive impact, a positive reaction.”

No Christmas market
There will be no Chico Saturday Farmers’ Market on Christmas Day. The market will be back, however, on New Year’s Day, Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011, at its usual place and time in the downtown Chico parking lot at Second and Wall streets.

Merry Christmas!