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Mindfulness and awareness

Two hundred to one on climate protection

Several beer crates placed on top of each other. An advertisement is hanging in the back.
A beekeeper working in his backyard.
Biogas and beehives: the Karmeliten Brewery in Straubing, Lower Bavaria, is way ahead in terms of sustainability. Managing director Christoph Kämpf encourages other entrepreneurs to follow his lead. 

Mindfulness and awareness – the buzzwords of fast-moving times. In other words, being more conscious about things. Concentrating on the moment. Appreciation and respect are also closely connected in some way. Mindfulness is often seen in a more spiritual sense, as an inner attitude for individuals to be able to find out more about themselves and live a more contented and relaxed life. 
Christoph Kämpf, managing director of the Karmeliten Brewery in Straubing, sees mindfulness and awareness as corporate concepts for focusing on the ethical responsibilities that companies have – or, as in his case, that breweries have – towards people and the environment. The basic idea at Karmeliten Brewery is based on three pillars: saving resources, having a local focus and shared values. 

Kämpf’s big goal is to make the brewery self-sufficient in terms of energy usage. They already have a modern micro gas turbine and the corresponding boiler, a refrigeration unit with natural coolant and a supplementary system for producing snow and reabsorbing cold from the atmosphere – a system called ICE AGE. The latest technical add-on at Karmeliten Brewery is their own biogas plant.

A special feature, which can be found in virtually no other brewery, is the energy traffic light. If peaks in energy demand are reached or an unusually large amount of energy is used over a long period of time, the energy traffic light switches from green to amber – or, in extreme cases, to red. This leads to operations at the brewing plant stopping immediately. According to Kämpf, after an initial familiarisation phase, the employees are now very good at taking the right measures to avoid this kind of emergency stop. 
But the brewery is doing more than that. We talked to Christoph Kämpf about bees, financing the brewery’s energy self-sufficiency and electric vehicles.

Mr Kämpf, we hear that bees have brought about a change at the Karmeliten brewery. What’s that all about?

I saw a film that showed women in China having to manually pollinate trees because there were no bees. Long before we all devoted ourselves to the topic of bees throughout Bavaria, we brought bees to our site in Straubing, cultivated flower meadows and worked together with the city authorities. That was the turning point that made us start addressing the energy issue and CO2 prevention. 

One of your main goals is to make the brewery self-sufficient in terms of energy. How far away from that are you?

Well, being ‘self-sufficient’ is the working title of these activities in our company – otherwise it would be as though we’re inventing perpetual motion machines. Unfortunately, we haven’t done that yet. Our main concern is to save energy, i.e. primary energy, and reduce our CO2. The first steps we have taken have clearly proved that this is possible. Saving 290 tonnes of CO2 may not sound like much at first – especially when I think of large automotive or chemical companies, whose savings could easily be hundreds of thousands of tonnes. But when I see that you would have to plant 23,000 trees to offset that amount of CO2, it's quite a good achievement. But what’s actually even more exciting is the beer crate comparison at 200:1, which means that we brew 200 crates of beer with about the same CO2 emissions as most others need for 1 crate.

What financial investment did you need for this? And when will it have paid off?

The investment we’re making is around €3 million. We are supported by the Federal Ministry for the Environment through the Environmental Innovation Programme. The ROI is 17–18 years, depending on energy prices. Enthusiasm is essential – from the owners, the management and the employees. This is not an investment that can be recouped in 2 years.

Now, you have already achieved a lot at your brewery. Where do you see your brewery in 10 years’ time? What can be done better?

There is still a lot to do. For the moment, our investment in the filter cellar is coming to an end. The next step would then be to deal with bottling. There is still a lot of energy to be saved and CO2 emissions to be reduced. In addition to that, we’ve not dealt with our vehicle fleet yet: we still drive diesel lorries. 

You recently tested a MAN electric lorry at your brewery though. What did the tests reveal?

That's right, we had one of the very first all-electric lorries on site. But, at the moment, it’s still difficult for us as a small brewery because the price is about four times that of a regular lorry. Also, being based in Straubing, the 200-kilometre range is a difficult issue for us. That would work if we only stayed in Straubing. But Straubing is not Munich, so we sometimes have longer distances to travel. There will certainly be a lot more to do in the next few years though, so we’ll stay on the ball. Whether we end up going for an electric lorry or maybe a gas-powered one remains to be seen. The buses in Straubing are currently being converted to being gas-powered, so maybe we can do something in collaboration with them. 

How would you encourage other entrepreneurs to make such large and long-term plans, taking mindfulness and awareness as operational concepts?

I’ll answer that with an Indian proverb: “If you think you’re too small, you’ve never had a mosquito in your bed.” That’s the way I see us. We’re the mosquito. Of course, we’re not going to save the world if it’s just us; if each of us makes a small change concerning the energy issue, we can all take a big step forward. That is my ambition and my aspiration.