Composting Champion of the Week
3 August 2018
Interview With Vincent Valentino, sustainability manager
3 August 2018 | Article & Photos by Katie Carey
The Land-Grant Brewing Company, nestled on West Town street in east Franklinton, opened it’s doors to the Columbus community in October of 2014. It’s 2018 and Land-Grant still brews their locally-famous (and seriously delicious) craft beers, but with an added layer: sustainability.
Vincent Valentino, known by the community as Vinny, joined Land-Grant as the Sustainability Manager and Operations assistant in 2016. Vinny helps spearhead the brewery’s Sungrant Program, which he describes as a “holistic sustainability program:” Land-Grant’s intentional guide to become more sustainable and mitigate the environmental blows that come with brewing beer. Vinny explains each pillar of the Sungrant Program, ticking them off on his fingers: Life cycle impact, carbon footprint, water stewardship, and community.
He describes how each pillar has a unique impact and how, combined, they contribute to creating closed loop systems, minimizing waste, lowering the impact of their supply chain, and the reduction of greenhouse gases and water usage.
Vinny explains, “there is a very, very genuine push for sustainability in beer, in craft beer in particular.” Land-Grant holds membership with The Brewers Association, a trade association which, among other services, helps produce tools for tracking and measuring sustainability efforts. Though often funded by and created for much larger breweries, smaller breweries like Land-Grant utilize The Brewers Association tools to mitigate environmental impact as well.
Vinny offers one example of how Land-Grant tackles sustainability initiatives: In Land-Grant’s Brewery, towering metal tubs fill the space and brewers pack freshly canned beer into boxes. Vinny points to a squat, shiny tub nearby, and shows the contents of warm, sticky-looking curds: spent grain, a byproduct of the fermentation process. The spent grain, he explains, goes to local cattle farmers, who use it as nutrient-dense cattle feed.
Land-Grant also donates yeast, another residual material that comes from the brewing process. Yeast, the stuff that makes beer alcoholic, serves as a highly nutritious fertilizer once it’s used, so Land-Grant offers it to local farmers as field fertilizer. By donating these residual materials, Land-Grant not only reduces waste sent to the landfill, but also fosters a closed-loop, highly beneficial system for those Ohioans who grow food.
But Land-Grant’s sustainability efforts don’t end with their Brewing process. Just outside Land-Grant’s building, four large bins, labeled “compost,” sit humbly beside the brick exterior. These compost bins, open to the public, are available for anyone who gets food from one of the several food trucks in Land-Grant’s parking lot. While any leftover food scraps, napkins, and paper products from these trucks can be placed in the compost, some trucks have even gone so far as to use reusable trays, compostable forks, and compostable containers as well.
Vinny expands, “We typically have three or four food trucks there. We have Ray Ray’s there permanently, and they’ve been an excellent partner in this. As soon as we started doing compost they totally changed out everything they do. The world needs more people like that.”
Now, the Ray Ray’s Hog Pit truck at Land-Grant serves dishes on compostable trays, in compostable side cups, and even offers guests compostable silverware.
The compost bins at Land-Grant serve another purpose, too: they are central to The Franklinton Compost Drop-Off Program, a pilot program designed to serve community members who want to compost, but don’t have the time, knowledge, or capacity to do it in their homes.
The Franklinton Compost Drop-Off program was the brainchild of Land-Grant and the Franklinton Board of Trade. “We started thinking through what a hub for Organics Diversion could look like for Franklinton.” Vinny explains. Together, Land-Grant and the Franklinton Board of Trade launched the 6-month pilot on Earth day, offering slots to 100 Franklinton families. Those registered receive a 5-gallon bucket from The Compost Exchange, fill those buckets with food scraps, and dump the bucket contents in the compost containers on the side of Land-Grant’s building once full. Innovative Organics Recycling swaps the food-scrap-filled bins each week with fresh ones. The project foremost supports Land-Grant’s vision of sustainability, but it also naturally highlights the brewery’s emphasis on community-oriented action.
“We aren’t here to be a nameless force of gentrification,” Vinny explains, “we want to make sure people know that we’re a neighbor, we’re a resource.”
The pilot officially ends in mid-September, but Vinny says the program will continue past the pilot, as those “who have been involved are very enthusiastic about it.” Moving forward, he hopes Land-Grant will be the first of several Compost drop-off hubs in Franklinton, increasing accessibility for community members.
Presently, Land-Grant is making efforts with their partnering food trucks to switch out all non-compostable food truck service-ware for compostable alternatives by mid-September. Concurrently, Land-Grant will remove the recycling and trash bins available to public and provide only compost receptacles to streamline the waste process, promoting 100% zero waste events.
In the future, Vinny dreams of a more comprehensive, streamlined composting system for the city. "What Columbus needs," he plainly states, "is a wider infrastructure for organics diversion."
Above all else, though, Vinny says he hopes Land-Grant will lead the way for environmental sustainability efforts in Columbus communities. “We have a case to make.” he says, “You can operate sustainably. You can mitigate your environmental impact. You can be a positive social steward, and it doesn’t have to break your bank.”