Sustainability in Hood RiverHood River, Oregon is a special place for my family and me. My wife and I spent many a weekend windsurfing the Columbia River, camping in Tucker campground and eventually got married and bought ourselves a little shack in town. Now, our boys look forward to our summer family vacations in Hood River.

We always make it a point to stop by the restaurant at the Full Sail Brewing Company. Last time we were there, I realized to what degree Full Sail exemplifies the kind of company that we are thrilled to see emerging in recent years – focused on sustainability, not just in the environmental sense but also in the human/social sense. In fact, we’ve been hearing a lot recently about microbreweries and their pursuit of sustainability.

I reached out to Sandra Evans, their Marketing Manager, to hear first hand about their sustainability efforts. She suggested that I speak with Jamie Emmerson, their brewmaster, for a more ‘technical’ conversation around sustainability (and we will do so in a future post), but for now, I just wanted to get Sandra’s take on sustainability and what it means to her, both as an individual employee and as a representative of the company.

Sandra’s been working at Full Sail for 18 years. She feels proud to work at a company that promotes values aligned with hers. Sandra quickly told me that ‘sustainability is deep in our DNA’ and proceeded to elaborate. To start with, the brewery and the restaurant are in a recycled building –the old Diamond Fruit Cannery. But it’s much more than that.

The company is employee owned and the employees feel cared for. They feel free to surface their ideas and they do, confident that they will be heard. Many of these ideas are around sustainability. One employee suggested that they buy a baler so that they can recycle the shrink-wrap that they use. Sandra explained that the idea wasn’t blindly followed – they did the research around it and it had to make reasonable business sense. It did and they ran with it.

Efficiency is core to their operations. They reuse grain and yeast for cattle feed. They built their deck out of recycled materials. They were the first West Coast brewery to commit to long-term purchasing of recycled paper products. They’ve worked out how to brew a gallon of beer using only 3 gallons of water (versus an industry average of 6-8 gallons).

I asked Sandra what drives Full Sail’s focus on sustainability. ‘Just look around us’ was the answer. Sitting on the deck offers a view of the Columbia River and Mt. Adams beyond. Behind, is Mt. Hood, the source of their water. ‘Ninety-nine percent of our materials come from our own backyard’. Hood River is in the midst of The Gorge – an area of astounding natural beauty. Their work environment continues to attract like-minded people, people who care about their environment and about their community’s well-being.