Up the Mountain, Down to Earth

Asheville doesn't let you just come in, throw your feet up and take what you want. To live here is to be part of this town and it's give and take. It gives to you right away. You ride on the Blue Ridge Parkway, try a trail, see a sunset. A visit into the city takes you into our architectural history and our mix of cultures. You enjoy the majesty of the oldest mountains in the world from the stoop of an artist's studio, listening to music on the street, sipping on a beer that rivals the best you can find in the country.
So we take it all in! We eat, drink, paddle, hike, cycle, camp, or just look and relish our small city that is now on the national radar. We love the mix of dreads and fashionistas, of culture and counter culture. Asheville has a deep love for the natural, the original, the real. It's what draws people here from just about everywhere.
In as many ways we take in our surroundings, we look for ways to give back. Environmental sustainability is one way to do that. (Community involvement is another way to be sustainable - see the Community page for more information.) For 17 years, we've given our spent grain to a local farmer to feed his cows. In the future, we're looking at solar power. We've invested $50,000 in just one boiler to reduce energy consumption and water usage. At some point, water or solar investment could cost over a million. We're not there yet, but we're looking at it. Down to the small things, we pick cans and bottle out of the trash and recycle paper from the Production Office to the grain bags. But it all makes a difference. And it fits into how this city works. Environmental awareness is cool, especially in Asheville.
So if you only take from here, you'll get a lot. But if you give back, you're part of the unspoken agreement that says, "We'd love to have you! Just be mindful of what you're getting." So until we stop taking in those great views, we'll keep giving back.

A long and admittedly soon-to-be-out-of-date list of what we do to improve sustainability:

• In the Brewing Process
➢ Give spent grain, spent yeast, used hops and our filter media to a local farmer to feed his cows. We've done it for 17 years.
➢ Purchase bulk grain, thereby reducing packaging
➢ Recycle the paper bags that contain specialty grains
➢ Created our own Clean in Place system to recapture water and cleaning chemicals, which reuses water and reduces water usage by over 1,000 gallons per week
➢ Reduce energy usage with a heat exchanger, which reclaims heat from boiled wort and transfers it to hot water for next batch
➢ Retrofitted dairy tanks to use as our original bright tanks
➢ Sold those dairy tanks to a local biodiesel manufacturing company when we moved to our current location. They turn used vegetable oil into fuel.
➢ Use a high efficiency boiler that far exceeds regulated emission levels. It has one of the lowest emissions of any available boiler.

• Packaging
➢ Channel keg washer rinse water to rinse the floor
➢ Choose six packs made of a minimally processed unbleached board, so producing them means less energy, chemicals and waste. Mother cartons are made of mostly post consumer recycled board.
➢ 12 packs are made from kraft board, a less processed package (less energy, chemicals, waste)
➢ New automated keg line saves water over manual rinsing by reusing wash water and increases efficiency with water use. And it makes our Packaging team happy since it now takes two people one day to do what used to require four people doing back-breaking work for a week.
➢ Choose suppliers as close to the brewery as possible to support our neighbors. Both mother cartons and 12 packs are manufactured within an hour of the plant to reduce transportation emissions.
➢ Chose a label manufacturer that is 10 minutes away
➢ Save all packaging, boxes, roll cores, plastic bags, for reuse on our next run
➢ Purchase most of our equipment used and refurbish it ourselves. Our keg washer came from Bell's. And the used bottling line is from Germany. The case closer/taper is a Highland original.
➢ We repurpose equipment that would potentially end up in a landfill. The half keg used to rinse bottles is an in-house invention. Good use of a bad keg!

• Distribution
➢ Our distribution has spread organically so we are not shipping beer all over the country
➢ 65% of our business is in WNC
➢ Keg tracking system to use kegs as much as possible - How? Bar codes
➢ We use one-day shipments to eliminate the need for refrigerated trucks

• General Operations
➢ Compostable cups for tours
➢ Encourage draft-reducing waste by reusing kegs
➢ Ethos of reduce, reuse, recycle throughout company
➢ Use of variable frequency drives to reduce energy consumption
➢ We take advantage of programs from the state and the utility companies to provide energy audits, for natural gas, steam boilers, electricity, etc.
➢ We have a great respect for the ingredients that go into our product as well, and they all come from having a sustainable, clean, and healthy environment
➢ The main ingredients in beer are Barley/Hops/Water/and Yeast.  All of which are natural ingredients that thrive in a healthy global environment
➢ We have a fabrication shop and save parts/metal/etc. to reduce waste and consumerism.
➢ We are in the process of evaluating our energy inputs, and other inputs, tracking them over time, in order to find new ways to conserve.
➢ We have talked with “green” manufacturing consultants for further help
➢ We rehabbed an old warehouse building instead of building a new structure.
➢ We have a sewage pretreatment system to help alleviate the pressure on our MSD.
➢ We have a recycling program company wide, glass, containers, paper and cardboard.
➢ We are active in the “Local” and environmental sustainability movements,which involve us deeply in the community.
➢ Switched out all halogen lights with T-5 fluorescent lights, cutting light energy usage in half

•  Future Plans
➢ CO2 recovery system
➢ Anerobic digester to produce methane for boiler and heat, reduce effluent load to sewer system and reclaim water to use for general and process cleaning.  Solids can be used as compost
➢ Additional windows and solar tubes to augment electrical lighting
➢ Stack condenser/heat exchanger
➢ Increased reduction in inputs-water-packaging-energy
➢ Compost system
➢ Working closer with a green manufacturing consultant
➢ Find more ways to recycle waste products, such as shrink wrap/banding material
➢ Energy offsets