Leopold Bros. is the first recognized environmentally sustainable distillery on record. The entire facility is near zero waste, and success is demonstrated by measuring the volume of waste outputs to the volume of product produced.
They initially brewed beer, using a method the founders developed reducing greatly the amount of water needed for production. Now that applies to their distillery process. Leopold Bros. opened their first facility in 1999 and were the first company in the industry nationwide to attempt a zero-waste effort. It involved a great deal of engineering and capital investment up front to ensure that the manufacturing processes would not generate waste in the first place, and that what little waste was generated could be recycled. The company followed the entire life cycle of all their products to minimize the impact of production and maximize potential for recycling.
The concept of a zero-waste facility is a founding principle and forms the basis of the entire operation to this day. When Leopold Bros. opened in 1999, an average brewery or distillery would generate 15-30 glasses of wastewater and two pounds of solid waste per glass of beer or spirits produced. Leopold Bros. reduced the volume to one glass of wastewater and two pounds of solid waste per glass of beer or spirits produced. Leopold Bros. then recycled the one glass of water and one oz. of solid waste so these outputs became raw material inputs to another industry, effectively closing the loop and becoming a near zero-waste facility.
Leopold Bros. has a solid waste recovery rate of 98+% by weight. The 2% balance which is not recycled is generally from trash the public brings into the facility while on tours. Leopold Bros. conducts public tours of the facility to highlight environmental efforts and conducts tours for industry members, which are more technical in nature and further explain environmental efforts. They also conduct seminars on pollution prevention in the beverage industry attended by arhcitects, engineers and city planners.
They use organic materials when possible and compost the spent material. Used barrels are shipped to local beer brewers for reuse. To Leopold Bros., environmental sustainability means financial sustainability. The two concepts are intertwined and are not diametrically opposed.