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Apponaug Brewery Keeps Recycling, Reducing Food Waste On Tap

Photo Courtesy Apponaug Brewing Company

Rhode Island brewery Apponaug Brewing Company makes environmentally sustainable choices a priority. Co-owners Tamara McKenney and Kris Waugh started the company after they became empty-nesters. They had worked together at a recruiting company and landed on a brewpub after agreeing on how much they loved brewery culture. 

For both, making sustainable, environmentally sound business choices was paramount. Today, the Warwick Brewery not only pours crafted beer but also prioritizes preventing reuse and recycling techniques, including avoiding food waste by limiting portion sizes, repurposing ingredients, and making wise menu choices.

Photo Courtesy Center for EcoTechnology

“Sustainability is generally important to me,” McKenney told The Business Download. “I’m a parent and grandparent, and it’s a personal value to me and my business partner — everything from food waste to what goes to the dump to clean water.”

“It’s important ultimately because of my personal value system in terms of taking care of our natural resources,” she continued. “As business owners, we try to find the sweet spot between sustainability and practicality. Sustainability can be about how you treat the environment, but it’s also about being economically sustainable.”

At Apponaug, surplus food is redirected to employees or local rescue groups. All spent grain from making beer is sent to local farms to feed pigs, and all of the brewery’s can toppers are recycled. 

The brewery noticed the number of wasted French fries and adjusted portions appropriately. Correct portion sizes also cut down on the use of take-home containers. Additionally, the brewery captures all water from heat exchanges in vessels, which is then used in more brewery processes.

Photo Courtesy Apponaug Brewing Company 

Every business decision at Apponaug is a careful balance between sustainability and profit.

“A great example is our food waste,” McKenney explained. “Currently, it’s too expensive to get all of our vegetable matter taken away. So we try not to waste any food from the get-go. We take our vegetable leftovers and turn them into soup. We do our best to use any still-edible organic matter.”

“For example, we used the skins of cucumbers, but we had the insides left over,” she continued. “So, we made a cucumber cocktail and a new Tzatziki. It makes sense. The less trash you throw out, the less trash bags you need, and the less cost of a dumpster.”

Video Courtesy RI Department of Environmental Management  

For McKenney, the sustainable choices aren’t just wise environmental ones; they make sense financially. As a brewpub, Apponaug saves at least $20,000 yearly on the food side with small sustainable measures in the kitchen and another $20,000 a year on the brewery side.

Photo Courtesy Apponaug Brewing Company 

“Wasted food is wasted dollars,” she said in a Center for EcoTechnology case study. 

“I approach sustainability from a profit and loss perspective. If you can save money, why wouldn’t you?” McKenney said. “The practical side of sustainability will appeal to most people, even if you don’t want to be sustainable for your grandchildren to have clean water, but because you want to save money. People are motivated to do the right thing, but sometimes, they do not know how to get started. Small changes lead to big changes.”


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