Bucks Star’s head brewer explains why ecology is a core value of the business…
My education and upbringing have been influential in how I think. In particular, my background in jurisprudence (legal philosophy) helped me discover that, ultimately, our laws are anthropocentric in nature. We might have environmental protections enacted in laws across the world, but ultimately the primary aim of laws is to govern the relationships between people, without sufficient regard to the impact human activity has on the surrounding environment and other animal species we all very much depend on. The upbringing my brother and I had also helped us become very conscious of what we eat, with emphasis on organic produce and wholesome foods.
Personally, I see business as an effective vehicle for changing people’s values and habits for the better, and ecology has been a key priority for me as I feel our beautiful environment is being taken for granted. It so happened that in 2013, my curiosity for real beer led me to take steps towards opening an ecological microbrewery, the name for which was immediately obvious: “Bucks Star“! From the start, it was clear to my brother that in brewing our pure beer, we should avoid the use of finings made from isinglass (fish bladder) and use organic ingredients wherever possible. In fact, our initial strapline advertised everywhere was “Unfiltered and Unfined”. Soon after, Guinness announced that after over 256 years of using isinglass, they were going vegan-friendly.
In 2016, the microbrewery was affected by a neighbouring fire, closing it down for nearly 2 years for the insurance company to carry out the building reinstatement. It was during this period that we made a decision to end our single-use offering and focus primarily on our zero-waste scheme, which we built around our reusable glass vessels called Growlers. It made no sense that people should pay for packaging every single time they make a purchase. People also pay for the means of disposing of that waste, and we will all pay the price for a degrading environment. We envisioned and formalised “Growler Swap” as the alternative, designed to address all these inefficiencies. It was not until the start of 2018 that we managed to return to the microbrewery and restart operations. During this past year, we have learned very much by pioneering our Growler Swap innovation. There is a huge educational effort to make people aware of what Growler Swap is about, how it works and, above all, why we are heavily investing in this reuse scheme. Another obstacle is access to ordinary shops and retailers.
Growler Swap is based on the idea that you return your empties and Swap for fresh Growler-conditioned beers, whilst moving away from the convenience and expensive waste of single-use containers. You pay for packaging once only! We charge no extra for packaging the first time you buy, i.e. you pay the same amount for our Growlers as for disposable glass bottles – in fact, about £1 more only. You can then sell us your empty (one of ours or another company’s) for that £1 if you wish or, if you Swap it for another, any 1L/2L empty will get you £5 off the Growler of your choice, meaning you pay £0 packaging every time! We can of course not buy empties outright for £5, as they are of no use to us unless we wash, and refill, them – which we are able to do (free) in exchange for your return custom!
The challenge has been tremendous and is not likely to ease anytime soon, but it is very rewarding when customers who support us appreciate what we are doing and always return with encouraging words whilst recommending us to friends. We might be ahead of the curve, but you can be too!