The Great Lakes Brewing Company: A Cleveland Ecosystem

The familiar smell of pizza greets you as you walk through the double doors, and the bartender smiles while pulling down on the tap handle in front of a full bar audience.  The brick walls look as though they’ve been holding up this building for quite a while.  The host seats you in the renovated Beer Garden, where a canvas roof and straw bale walls keep in the heat emanating from the floor and fireplace.

[The Brew Pub – photo by “The Breeze”]

The Great Lakes Brewing Company (GLBC) pub is located on Market Avenue, across from the West Side Market in Ohio City, within two historic buildings—one of which was a tavern said to be popular during the prohibition.  Legend claims that a few bullet holes were left there by Eliot Ness.  

Since that time, the brewery has grown to be one of the most popular beer manufacturers in the United States.  For sales alone, the GLBC was ranked 36th in the nation of all the commercial beer manufacturers in 2007.  Their production has grown 20 to 30% per year for the last 4 years, and they expect that trend to continue through 2009.  The GLBC’s Christmas Ale, brewed with honey and spiced with fresh ginger and cinnamon, has won three Gold Medals from the World Beer Championships (2005, 2006, and 2007).  

Beyond their high sales and award-winning lagers, however, something else makes the GLBC stand out from its peers.

The Forest Brewery
Patrick Conway, co-owner of the GLBC with his brother Dan Conway, has been interested in making their operations completely sustainable since the brewery’s inception about 20 years ago.  In fact, the staff at the GLBC takes sustainability so seriously that the entire business has begun to function like a natural ecosystem.  The company website states that, “The ultimate goal is to mimic nature, where 100% of resources are used in closed-loop ecosystems.”  A closed-loop ecosystem is one in which all by-products, or “waste,” are re-used.  
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The Natural Next Step: Building Northeast Ohio’s Biomimicry Hub as a Step Towards Redesigning Region’s Future

Our generation of Clevelanders is blessed with the legacy of foreclosures, brownfields, industrial abandonment, vacant land, shrinking population numbers, unemployment and economic instability. Although the present outlook of this reality is not good, it presents us with the opportunity for greatness.

Instead of tossing up our hands, many of us who have chosen to stay in Greater Cleveland are changing our perspective in order to change our reality. As Albert Einstein put it so beautifully, “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” So how can we think differently than we have in the past to surmount the challenges before us?

termite mound

The Eastgate Centre in Harare, Zimbabwe, uses biomimetic design methods inspired by the self-cooling mounds of African termites to regulate temperature year-round with dramatically less energy consumption than conventional air-conditioning and heating.

Many people are looking to the experts for help. These experts have 3.8 billion years of experience in research and development. Some of these experts include geckos, lotus leaves, termite mounds, old growth forests and glow worms. The natural world that surrounds us is the secret to survival—because what didn’t work, what wasn’t appropriate and what couldn’t last is now a fossil. Continue reading