Craft breweries, especially in Grand Rapids, are leading a sustainability movement. Each brewery has its own way of tackling that issue. Here are five breweries (and one brewpub) influencing the way Grand Rapids breweries look at sustainability:

Brewery Vivant focuses on building a sustainable community by investing in local materials. 50 percent of Brewery Vivant's food input and 25 percent of its drink input is grown within 250 miles of its East Hills location.

Brewery Vivant focuses on building a sustainable community for all by investing in local materials.

Photo by Experience Grand Rapids (taken by Bree Girard)

Brewery Vivant & Broad Leaf Brewery & Spirits

Brewery Vivant and Broad Leaf Brewery & Spirits have become shining examples of sustainability among brewers. Co-founders Kris and Jason Spaulding are taking great care to ensure that their operation will drive change in the community for years to come.

Brewery Vivant became the world’s first LEED-certified microbrewery in 2012, just two years after opening its doors. Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a rating system for the design, construction and operation of green buildings. The brewery was built along those guidelines and incorporates sustainable practices in day-to-day operations – including using solar panels to generate electricity, working towards zero waste to landfill and striving for an annual reduction in carbon footprint. Brewery Vivant has also been recognized as a certified B Corporation since 2014. B Corps are businesses that meet high standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency. 

In 2021, the Spauldings formally committed their operation to a 50% greenhouse gas reduction and 25% energy intensity reduction within 10 years. They also signed on to the Department of Energy’s Better Climate Challenge and Better Plants Challenge.

The Spauldings are committed to sourcing locally and regionally as much as possible. They established goals for the operation of acquiring 50% of their food input and 25% of their beer input from Michigan, and sourcing 75% of all purchases from Michigan. The latter goal was surpassed for the first time in 2021, when 79% of all business purchases were made from Michigan-based companies. Brewery Vivant also surpassed the food input goal in 2021, acquiring 62% of its food input from Michigan.

Extending the local theme, the operation donates 1% of its sales to local charities.

Each year, the operation releases a Beer The Change® report highlighting its sustainability and community service initiatives.

Mitten Brewing Co. Beer with Composting Instructions in Grand Rapids, MI

Founded by two lifelong local residents in 2012, the Mitten Brewing Co. has emphasized sustainability and charitable giving since its inception.

Photo by Experience Grand Rapids (taken by Bree Girard)

Mitten Brewing Co.

Mitten Brewing Co. co-owners, Chris Andrus and Max Trierweiler, in conjunction with their staff, work to support neighborhood schools and amplify the voices of their neighbors all year long.

Mitten Brewing has raised more than $350,000 for area nonprofits and organizations since opening in 2012. In 2017, the brewery launched its own foundation, The Mitten Brewing Foundation. Each month, the brewery partners with a different local nonprofit organization to raise funds and awareness.

In 2022, Mitten staff logged more than 250 volunteer hours and helped raise over $68,000 for the community. These funds were used for causes such as improved accessibility at Richmond Park, donations of holiday groceries, supplies and gifts, support of local individuals with disabilities, programming to break the generational cycle of incarceration, resources to help Westside teen mothers complete their education, aiding the local transgender community to transcend barriers and build equality, free meals for food-insecure neighbors and – fittingly, for the baseball-themed brewery – the preservation of black baseball in Michigan.

BarFly Ventures' to go box made from renewable resources in Grand Rapids, MI

All napkins, to-go products, and straws at BarFly Ventures' establishments are made from renewable resources.

Photo by Experience Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids Brewing Co. and HopCat

Project BarFly establishments, including Grand Rapids Brewing Co. and HopCat (which has locations in Downtown and Knapps Corner), diverts more than 90 percent of its waste from the landfill to compost and recycling.

In 2017, BarFly Ventures was recognized as the Sustainable Business of the Year by the West Michigan Sustainable Business Forum, thanks to its waste elimination efforts and partnerships with sustainability nonprofits across the country. The company also works to create a more sustainable community in which everyone’s needs are met. Its 2018 Sustainability Report (the latest available), recounts that year’s accomplishments – including the donation of more than $85,000 to local nonprofits and charities in the areas of equality, conservation, water safety, housing solutions, health/wellness, animal welfare, community initiatives, food accessibility, kids’ engagement and veterans’ services. Since the companies restructuring in 2020, they are still committed to leaving the world better than they've found it. In 2022, BarFly donated more than $35,000 to local nonprofits and charities that have a commitment to sustainability education, conservation, water safety, food accessibility, housing solutions and public schools. 

BarFly is a founding member of multiple sustainable-focused organizations, including the U.S. Green Building Council’s Grand Rapids 2030 District and the Great Lakes Business Network.

Beer From Founders' Brewery In Grand Rapids, MI

Founders' Brewing Co. launched their giving platform The Big Pitcher to give back to meaningful causes that the brewery is passionate about.

Photo by Experience Grand Rapids

Founders Brewing Co.

By far the largest brewery in Grand Rapids, Founders Brewing Co. is no slouch when it comes to its sustainability and charitable efforts. 

In 2022, Founders composted 48,000 pounds of waste per month and diverted 99% of its waste from landfills. It sent more than 24 million pounds of spent grain from its production processes to local farms for animal feedstock and for use in Beer City Dog Biscuits. Since 2019, Founders has reduced their overall consumption of energy by 24% and their water consumption by 22%. 

The brewery is a big reason the city of Grand Rapids constructed a bio-digester at its Water Resource Recovery Facility. The bio-digester converts food waste into energy from nearby Founders, SET Environmental facilities and other sources. 

In 2017, Founders launched its corporate giving platform, The Big Pitcher, designed to give back to local, regional and national causes that the brewery is passionate about, particularly those that emphasize the environment, social equity and arts & culture. To help restore forests across the United States, Founders and The Big Pitcher partnered with the Arbor Day Foundation to plant 50,000 trees in 2022. The Big Pitcher also encompasses volunteering and employee donation to encourage staff to give back to the community. Since its creation, The Big Pitcher has donated over $590,000, with over $40,000 coming directly from employee matching donations. 

Grand Rapids was once referred to as “America’s Greenest City” due to its sustainability efforts – and Grand Rapids breweries are doing their part to keep us moving forward as an environmentally conscious community.

Visit our Beer City, USA page to learn more about the local beer scene, find breweries near you and download the Beer City Brewsader® app – you’ll earn a FREE t-shirt by using the app to check in to eight breweries!