When the major supermarkets stopped offering single-use plastic bags, many of us were surprised by just how easy it was to make the transition. It had taken years of discussion and deliberation but when it finally happened we got on board pretty quickly (admittedly with a few instances of leaving the green bags in the boot of the car while we adjusted).
What if the craft beer industry could take a similar tack? With local governments across Australia and elsewhere in the world starting to declare a climate emergency, it makes sense for both individuals and businesses to look for ways to lessen their negative impact on the planet we live on.
As those tacky t-shirts say: “Save the Earth – It’s the only planet with beer.”
So, what if bars and brewery taprooms could take the step to stop using single-use plastic, and gain accreditation to show consumers they’re environmentally conscious?
The Surfrider Foundation Australia (SFA) offers such accreditation. It's a non-profit organisation that focuses on protecting Australia’s beaches and oceans, and supporting others to do the same. Their Ocean Friendly program calls on hospitality businesses to take on more sustainable business practises, starting with cutting out single-use plastic.
Greg Howell, president of the Gold Coast Tweed Branch of SFA, thinks it’s a no-brainer for bars and brewpubs to do what it takes to become Ocean Friendly accredited.
“We look forward to hearing from and promoting all breweries and pubs as Ocean Friendly businesses,” he says.
In the first half of 2019, Greg approached three breweries within his region to encourage them to become Ocean Friendly: Black Hops and Balter on the Gold Coast, and Stone & Wood in Byron Bay. At time of writing, Black Hops was still going through the process. Stone & Wood and Balter, however, received accreditation straight away.
“It was easy,” says Greg. “Stone & Wood and Balter were already compliant with all six categories [see below] and are now looking at furthering their sustainability goals.”
Balter is the first brewery in Queensland to receive the certification, while in New South Wales, Stone & Wood stands alongside 4 Pines in operating Ocean Friendly venues.
To be certified as Ocean Friendly, venues must meet the following criteria:
- No expanded polystyrene foam use, eg Styrofoam
- No single-use plastic straws
- Reusable tableware for dine in and non-plastic utensils for takeaway food
- No water sold in plastic bottles
- No plastic bags offered for takeout orders
- Proper recycling practices are followed, with an easily visible recycling option for customers
Surfrider also encourages its Ocean Friendly venues to:
- Offer discounts for reusable cups, mugs, bags, or containers (where applicable)
- Use energy efficient LED lighting and Energy Star Appliances;
- Offer vegetarian and/or sustainable seafood options, and to source ethical and local produce
- Take efforts to conserve water in kitchens, bathrooms, and cleaning
James Perrin, sustainability manager at Stone & Wood (pictured below), says sustainability was a key value for the brewery from day one.
“I don’t know if we ever used single-use plastic. We’ve been plastic free for many years, at least," he says. "The original brewery bar at Boronia Place was certified, so this was just about making sure we still met all the requirements [at the new tasting room].”
He also says it will be the same for the Brisbane tasting room, due to open in Spring 2019.
“The idea is that it’s more of a visitor experience, like a winery cellar door. People can come in, taste the beers – of course it can all be glass," he says.
"There’s no takeaway food, so people can eat food in the brewery, and we don’t have to worry about single-use products. We can sell merchandise – beers, or t-shirts, or whatever it may be – with no single-use plastic bags. People don’t need them anyway. And you don’t drink beer out of straws!
“Really, being Ocean Friendly is an easy one. You just Don’t. Sell. Single. Use. Plastic. You don’t have to do anything difficult; you just have to not do something.”
Stone & Wood’s focus on sustainability reaches further than the taproom – the company holds itself to a high standard in regards to water and energy reduction in brewing, waste management and wastewater treatment, and even looks up and down the supply chain for ways to reduce impact, such as buying glass and cardboard with 50 percent recycled content.
As one of the elder statesmen of the Australian craft brewing scene, Stone & Wood can act as a role model to others in the industry seeking to be more sustainable. And the Ocean Friendly accreditation is just one example of a simple step breweries and venues can take straight away.
“For breweries that are offering that in-brewery experience, it’s actually quite achievable,” James says. “I reckon a lot of them already meet the criteria. Certainly the brewing industry is at the forefront of conscious consumerism, and sustainable practices.
“I encourage other brewers out there to look into it, and hit up Surfrider. Because I think if we could get a whole lot of breweries certified as Ocean Friendly, that’d be awesome.”
To read more about the Ocean Friendly accreditation, or to apply for your business to be certified, visit Surfrider's website.