Inspired Employee Ownership and Water Conservation All in One Place

by Karin Grinzel on June 4, 2012

Recently I had the opportunity to attend Annual Gathering of the Games for the Great Game of Business in St. Louis, Missouri. For those unfamiliar with the Great Game of Business (GGOB), it is a system of employee engagement and ownership facilitated through open book management. The Annual Gathering of the Games is a networking event that facilitates connection and training opportunities for those expressing initial interest in GGOB and for seasoned veterans of the program as well.

The opening keynote was particularly inspiring to me. Kim Jordan, co-founder and CEO of New Belgium Brewing (Fort Collins, CO), shared her company’s story in regard to their culture and their efforts at conservation. Kim described how New Belgium evolved from her basement into the seventh largest Brewery in the nation, while still maintaining an atmosphere of personability and ownership. For example, after one year of employment at New Belgium, each employee receives a bicycle (like the one pictured on their Fat Tire beer) and many employees choose to commute on two wheels to work.  The company also sponsors the Tour de Fat bicycling festival in cities across the nation promoting the trading of cars to unleash the cyclist within.  You don’t even have to be an anti-pollution poster child to admit that it is inspiring to see New Belgium embracing a defined culture of conservation and imparting it companywide.

But the impartation doesn’t stop there.

The City of Fort Collins was charging the brewery a large “plant investment fee” for the construction of infrastructure to process all of the brewery’s wastewater in the municipal water system.  New Belgium decided to go a different route and took the dollars they would have had to pay the city and built a process water treatment plant, including anaerobic digestion. New Belgium uses the methane produced by the digester to generate renewable electricity and heat.  In addition, New Belgium saw renewable biogas-fueled CHP as a way to be more environmentally sustainable. The company subscribes to wind power but believes that any time it can diversify its energy supply and/or produce its own power it’s a win-win situation.

While wastewater cost savings and renewable energy production were the primary drivers, energy cost savings were another.  In addition to an energy use charge and a fixed demand charge, businesses in Fort Collins must pay a coincident peak demand charge ($13.3722 per kW.)  The coincident peak demand is the amount of power companies are using when Platte River Power Authority (Fort Collins Utilities’ generation and transmission supplier) hits its system-wide peak. The energy cost savings of $5,000 per month are mainly from cutting the coincident peak demand.

I am inspired to think about how something that started so small can evolve into a shining example by establishing a vision, communicating it, and adhering to it no matter what.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: