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U-M alum: Brewery Vivant sustains people, planet, profit

Video Produced by Jarrett Begick, Michigan Media All photos by Daryl Marshke, Michigan Photography
By Greta Guest, Michigan News

ANN ARBOR—When Kris Spaulding started Brewery Vivant, she did so mindful of the possibilities to create a sustainable business with inspiration sparked at the University of Michigan.

The Brewery Vivant storefront

“At Michigan, I developed a more well-rounded perspective of what it means to be a good citizen of the world,” she said.

-Spaulding and her husband, Jason, co-founded the first Silver LEED-certified commercial microbrewery worldwide in Grand Rapids. Combining Jason’s brewery experience with an environmental focus from Kris’ studies at U-M’s School for Environment and Sustainability, the couple forged an enterprise that’s highly tuned to its carbon footprint.

“We run this business with a triple bottom line approach putting equal emphasis on people and planet, not just profit,” Spaulding said. “Sustainability is a big part of our identity as a business, and we develop deeper relationships in our community because of it.”

Brewery Vivant employees work in the warehouse

Brewery Vivant employees work in the warehouse

For example, the brewery derives its power from renewable energy sources; it uses cans instead of bottles because the aluminum can is more likely to be recycled, is easier to ship and reduces the carbon footprint; purchases more than 60 percent of supplies in Michigan; and it donates 1 percent of sales locally. A Certified B Corporation, the brewery meets high social and environmental standards.

Spaulding studied environmental policy and behavior at U-M and often reflects back on what she learned around the psychology of environmental action and how to get people to care enough to change their behavior.

University of Michigan alumna Kris Spaulding and brewery employees toast the impact of sustainable business

“This comes through in how we train our staff about what it means to work at Vivant as well as in my efforts to influence the business community on the benefits of being a mission-driven triple bottom line business,” she said. “As I look at how to have a bigger impact in my community, I also reflect back on the policy side of my degree and the importance of instigating change at that level.”

Sara Soderstrom, a professor at U-M’s Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, said that Spaulding’s experience is what studying sustainability at Michigan is all about.

University of Michigan professor Sara Soderstrom

Sara Soderstrom

“What we try to do is show how often there are ways to synthesize your business impact with the environment and with society,” she said.

Stories of Our State
Brewery Vivant
U-M School for Environment and Sustainability
Erb Institute

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