Steam Whistle – Not only the bottle is green

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by Phillip Schulze-Garg

The founding of Steam Whistle is a story that has become a bit of a legend over the last decade. In 1998, three young and ambitious friends, all let go simultaneously from Upper Canada Brewing Company, were determined to start their own brewery. Without the burden of operating an inherited business with fixed structures and procedures Greg Taylor, Cam Heaps and Greg Cromwell felt passionate about doing “the right thing” from the beginning. Housed in one of North America’s oldest surviving round-houses the three literally had to start their brewery from scratch; the round-house was a shell of a building. Challenges, however, more often than not are also opportunities. Keeping to their values they developed and implemented a strategy to combine smart business and sustainability practices recognizing that one does not exclude the other. After two long years of preparation, Steam Whistle began operating in 2000.

So, what are some of the key features of Steam Whistle’s green and sustainable business practice?

With the exception of a few remote routes in Ontario, Steam Whistle’s delivery trucks have been running fully on bio diesel (a mix of soya and recycled restaurant oil) since 2006. The

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brewery continues to experiment with new operational methods. Since 2007, Steam Whistle has been 100% powered by Bullfrog, which provides electricity from a mix of different renewable energy sources.Above all, Steam Whistle remains committed to conservation and waste diversion. As a result a culture of conservation and constant improvement has been built among the team.  From a technology perspective all the brewery’s equipment and lighting adheres to best energy saving practices. Water, the most crucial part of the brewing process, is conserved and reduced where possible, while phosphates have been eliminated from cleaning agents, so as not to contaminate waste-water. Organic waste is composted and leftover edibles are distributed to local street missions and women’s shelters. Over ninety six percent of Steam Whistle’s waste is diverted!

More initiatives have been implemented over the years. Yet, what is most important about Steam Whistle’s story is that “going green” has benefited the entire brewery and its community. Steam Whistle undertook great efforts in educating and engaging its staff (a special environmental committee was formed in 2007) on sustainable operational practices. Staff are encouraged to practice what they preach outside of work too. Steam

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Whistle provides covered bike racks, an onsite bike service station, as well as shower and towel services to promote a healthy lifestyle and clean commuting.Steam Whistle’s efforts and initiatives have been enthusiastically recognized:  Steam Whistle was voted as one of Canada’s best-managed companies on numerous occasions, it received a Minister’s Award for Environmental Excellence, was honored by the “Green Living Organization” in its inaugural year with the Excellence in Corporate Responsibility Award. In 2009 the brewery was honoured by Green Toronto Awards for its efforts to lower its power consumption, reduce waste and conserve water.

Raising public awareness is a key piece in Steam Whistle’s sustainability work. The company hosts daily tours, participates in the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association’s Green Energy Doors Open, has an excellent and informative internet presence and reaches out to the community by hosting events for sustainable organizations promoting the idea to “integrate environmental responsibility into daily lives”.

Next time you enjoy a Steam Whistle remember that not only the bottle is green, the whole brewery is too and by enjoying a cool beverage you are being a bit more sustainable as well.