Brew pub’s employees decide: ‘we’re going zero waste!’

by Betsy Coffia  Betsy Coffia - Craig Seaver - Color Adjusted

Founder Pete Kirkwood can’t help but smile when he talks about The Workshop, a new brew pub on Garland Street in the Warehouse District.

“Nature, community, craft. That’s what our business symbol stands for and what we strive for,” he tells attendees as they sip his beer at the September Green Drinks.

He and his wife and young children are long accustomed to recycling and composting at home – “my four year old knows you sort things” – so, to him, it was natural for these practices to be part of the new business.

He also understood that this “of course” attitude would need to translate with his barbacks, bartenders, kitchen staff, etc.

“In the hiring process, I really focused on our values,” he notes. “To do ‘nature, community, craft,’ our staff has to know how, and has to give a damn.”

This emphasis is already paying off.

Before the doors even opened in August, 2013, The Workshop’s employees did a training with Bay Area Recycling for Charities.

“I was late to the meeting, and (the employees) said, ‘Pete, we’re going zero waste!’ They just decided it. I said, okay!” Kirkwood says.

So what does this commitment look like in real time? An example – all that spent grain after it’s used for making the brew pub’s main product: delicious beer. The bulk goes to a local farmer to be used as fodder, instead of going to the landfill.

The remaining spent grains are used to make a Spent Grain Bread loaf, which you can try on their lunch menu…. yes, they serve lunch! Spread the word!

About that food. Wherever possible, the brewpub sources food locally and/or organically. And when it comes to food waste: “With our commercial kitchen, we generate gigantic amounts of compostables. For a lot of similar small businesses, that waste can make up two small dumpsters a week. We compost it instead,” Kirkwood says.

Employees have been trained to sort what would otherwise be considered throwaway, and deal with it as either a compostable, reusable or a recyclable item to be handled by BARC’s commercial recycling and composting services.

“That’s a big key, that our community has an entity like BARC, with a comprehensive recycling process that can accept all of it,” Kirkwood notes.

He wants to be transparent that the brew pub’s commitment to the ethic of zero waste is something they are “just beginning. If someone has a piece of gum and wants to throw it away, well, there’s no way to compost or recycle that. I don’t know if Orville (the farmer who uses the spent grains for fodder) recycles the bags they come in. We’re not perfect, but we’re not greenwashing. We are doing zero waste to the best of our ability. And that is only one part of the bigger vision of Nature, Community, Craft.”

For those looking to consume ethically, sustainably and locally wherever possible, here’s an informal list of what The Workshop offers:

* all organic grains used in beer making

* additional beer ingredients are either organic or sourced as locally as possible (the new pumpkin saison, released this weekend, is made with local pumpkins, for example)

* great food, sourced as locally as possible

* socially conscious, community minded setting where the Triple Bottom Line – people, profits, planet – is embraced

* a business model that gives an automatic 2% of revenue to philanthropic efforts, and another 10% on a profitable year to employee incentives

* an ‘open book’ approach to finances – “I have no secrets from my employees. They know what I’m spending, they’ve seen the books,” says Kirkwood.

* vision to grow the talents and futures of employees – Kirkwood, along with The Workshop’s chef and brewer, all took Ann Arbor based Zingerman Deli’s ZingTrain training and Kirkwood is very excited to emulate the business model of what Inc. Magazine called “the coolest small company in America.” 

* electric brewhouse, which Pete says is “fairly uncommon in the brewing world.” (the aim is to convert to renewable energies in tandem with movement in that direction by local utilities, something Kirkwood is hopeful to see)

* a gathering space filled with salvaged (and often staff-constructed) furniture, tables, light fixtures, etc.

* an inviting outdoor patio during warm weather

Learn more by visiting The Workshop’s active Facebook page here  – it’s administered by a social media savvy bar tender, by the way. And don’t forget to go visit them at 221 Garland Street, Suite A, Traverse City, Michigan 49684

Kirkwood is a busy guy, but he also likes to create art for the business when he has time, using tongue in cheek treatments of old Soviet Propaganda. For example, he is working on one with the slogan “The Revolution will be Home Grown!”


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One thought on “Brew pub’s employees decide: ‘we’re going zero waste!’

  1. Pingback: Brew pub’s employees decide: ‘we’re going zero waste!’ – Sustainable TC | Local Economy Guy

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