Case Study: Sierra Nevada


Audit Finds Sierra Nevada Successfully Diverts 99.8 Percent of Its Waste

CHICO, Calif. -Nov. 15, 2013- The U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) announced today that it’s awarding Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. with the platinum certification plaque for its achievement in successfully diverting 99.8 percent of its waste from landfill, incineration and the environment. This is the first platinum certification that the USZWBC has given and the highest level possible.

USZWBC audited the Zero Waste diversion processes at Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Chico, Calif. and found that the facility is successfully reducing, reusing, recycling, and composting at an unprecedented rate.

“Our certification program holds to the highest standards and is one of the toughest in the country, so reaching the platinum level is a great accomplishment,” said Stephanie Barger, founder and executive director of USZWBC. “We have never seen a company so efficient with their Zero Waste management, and yet they are still striving to achieve an even higher standard, which is inspiring.”

The goal of businesses participating in the Zero Waste Certification program is to divert all end-use material from landfill, incineration and the environment, while achieving a minimum of 90 percent diversion based on the
standards set by the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA). Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. is exceeding this by 9.8 percent.

“Resource conservation is important to me and I’ve always felt it’s the right way to do business,” said Ken Grossman, owner and founder of Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.  “Everyone at Sierra Nevada participates in our Zero Waste efforts and takes pride in what we do.  It is an honor to be recognized as a Platinum Zero Waste Business by the US Zero Waste Business Council.  Although we have built a great Zero Waste program, we will continue to look for ways to improve.”

Though the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Chico facility has successfully achieved the highest level of certification, there is still more to be accomplished by increasing diversion, implementing upstream policies and
total participation from all employees, vendors and customers. By working towards these high-level Zero Waste objectives, the business manages its resources more efficiently and economically.

“As the USZWBC certification chair, I am very proud of the work that Sierra Nevada Brewing has done over the years to achieve a platinum rating,” said Sue Beets-Atkinson, USZWBC board member. “The company has displayed great knowledge of Zero Waste, which was very exciting to see during the staff interviews. Each employee’s version of Zero Waste was very impressive.”

To date, the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Chico facility has excelled in the following areas:

  • Commitment to Zero Waste by reaching 99.8 percent diversion from landfill, incineration and the environment
  • $5,398,470 avoided disposal costs, and $903,308 in revenue (2012) – both of these include spent brewers grain, which makes up the bulk of what it diverts
  • 51,414 tons diverted from landfill and incineration
  • 11,812 tons of CO2e greenhouse gases avoided
  • Reuse:
    • Shipping pallets are rebuilt locally;
    • Employees are given an insulated Klean Kanteen and a ChicoBag(r) on their first day to help them get into the habit of reuse;
    • Single sided paper is collected and turned into notepads for employees;
    • The same boxes in which bottle caps are delivered are saved and reused to ship t-shirts.
    • Given the lack of regional composting facilities, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. was the first in the US to install a HotRot composter to compost its organic waste. This system composted 261 tons of organics in 2012 that otherwise would have gone to the landfill.

These achievements were accomplished by employees and leadership from their sustainability team: Cheri Chastain and Mandi McKay.

About the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council Launched in spring 2012 and headquartered in Corona Del Mar, Calif., the USZWBC’s mission is to educate, inform and document the performance of Zero Waste Businesses using scientific methods to help them and their communities become more healthy and sustainable. The USZWC will be hosting its third annual National Zero Waste Business Conference on May 7 and 8 in Atlanta,
Ga. To register for the conference, go to

About Zero Waste
According to the Zero Waste International Alliance (, Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use. Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them. Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.
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