Sustainability in Parks and Brew

“With ceremony, with forms of politeness and reassurance, they borrowed the waters of the River and its little confluents to drink and be clean and irrigate with, using water mindfully, carefully. They lived in a land that answers greed with drought and death. A difficult land: aloof yet sensitive.”

Ursula Le Guin in Always Coming Home


Austin, Andrew, Sonia

Day 6 – Tours and More Tours – Sustainability in Parks and Brew

Our day began with hopes of finally being able to fly in helicopters. The typical low clouds and rain of Juneau in late summer soon crushed these hopes. In the meantime, we listened to a geology lecture from Rick Wardrop, where he explained the general geology of Southeastern Alaska. He gave us a refresher on plate tectonics and the differences between how sedimentary, igneous, and metamorphic rocks are formed. We were given a brief break before loading up the vans and heading to the United States Forest Service (USFS) office for more lectures.


Caption: CAUSE students listening to Rick Wardrop drop fundamental geologic principles

We pulled into the Forest Services’ parking lot and were greeted by a stylish new building, with large windows and located in a beautiful waterfront location. We entered and took our places in the conference room, where we got a brief introduction to some forestry terms and the hydrology of the area. After that, we watched a graduate student present her work on nitrogen fluxes in the nearby rainforests to her colleagues. We finished with a quick tour of the labs and offices of the building.

Our next tour brought us to the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center, where nearly 500,000 people come to every year. While being soaked by a consistent rain shower, we walked up and down the roads, observing streams and learning about salmon activity in the park. We then got to explore the main Visitor Center building, looking over many educational materials, with the Mendenhall Glacier we had visited just days before in view. A large section of one wall addressed how climate change affects the immediate Juneau area. Handwritten cards from people hoping to curb climate change flooded the wall, with messages ranging from “VOTE” to “Use more clean energy.”


As with any typical CAUSE day, our day was scheduled to the brim, and after finishing our time at the Mendenhall Glacier, our group of college students in minivans headed to a tour at the Alaskan Brewing Company. Our tour focused on water usage and sustainable practices, as beer making is an extremely water-intensive process. The Alaskan Brewing Company is not a typical start-up microbrewery, and they were determined to show us their environmentally friendly efforts in producing beer.


Engineers told us about a machine that saves millions of gallons of water in the beer-making process, their work to sequester their carbon emissions, and more. Being located in Juneau, they also have the unique opportunity to be powered almost completely by renewable hydropower. On top of that, by burning their previously spent grain to help power their operations, they had developed a mainly closed loop cycle, which gave birth to their company slogan: “Beer Powered Beer.”


Caption: Cecilia, Dan and Sara listen to Alaskan Brewing employee and Penn State graduate talk about the beer-making process


For a large company that produces about 80% of beer in Alaska, they are determined to implement sustainable practices that also make sound business sense, further proof that the two are not mutually exclusive.

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