Raising the bar: SNRE alumna creates sustainable brewery


Growing up in Holland, Mich., Kris (Lukas) Spaulding '97 always felt close to nature. She was drawn to the lake, her family often took trips to the beach, and she spent hours playing in the forest that was her backyard. Her affinity for nature only grew stronger as she grew older. When Kris came to the University of Michigan as an undergraduate, she began a degree in engineering but soon switched to SNRE, realizing her lifelong affinity for nature.

Shortly after earning her bachelor of science in natural resources and environment, Kris began an 11-year career at Herman Miller, Inc. where she learned it is possible to run a profitable business that is focused on sustainability. At the end of her time there, she was focused on implementing the company's Design for Environment protocol which ensured that the realities of production were in line with the company's sustainability goals.

With the environmental focus she honed at SNRE and the business model she learned in the corporate world, Kris and her husband, Jason "an experienced brewery owner" decided to combine their passions. The pair created Brewery Vivant around a business model committed to sustainability.

"Sustainability is one of the brewery's core values, and we work to stay true to it in every realm of our business," Kris said.

She and Jason repurposed an old Grand Rapids, Mich., funeral home to serve as Brewery Vivant's location, with patrons sipping craft beer in what was once the chapel. The renovated building was the nation's first LEED certified commercial microbrewery, and all equipment uses 100% renewably generated electricity. The brewery plans to launch an onsite solar energy project in 2016 that will account for over a quarter of their annual electricity demand. When it comes to packaging their beer, they use cans rather than bottles, because the aluminum can is more often recycled and reduces the brewery's carbon footprint.

This sustainability mindset extends to the community at large. As a small-scale business, most of Brewery Vivant's customers are local, so Kris and Jason do their best to return the favor.

"We rely on people in the area for patronage, so we give back to them as much as we can," Kris said.

Whenever possible, they use local suppliers and ingredients from local farms. A garden supplies the kitchen with some basic ingredients, but Kris hopes to someday expand that garden into a farm that can provide much of what they need. In addition, all Brewery Vivant employees receive health care, paid vacation time, profit sharing, and other benefits not often found in their industry that make the business a great place to work.

A measure of Kris's success is Brewery Vivant's status as a Certified B Corporation, which means it meets high social and environmental standards.

Kris explained, "At SNRE, I developed a more well-rounded perspective of what it means to be a good citizen of the world."

Raising the bar: SNRE alumna creates sustainable brewery