A Conversation About Sustainability with Dean Landi
We can all agree, this is a crazy time. The coronavirus has upended our lives, our business and more troublesome, our sense of what we thought we could rely on.
It has us thinking, what will the world look like after this is all over? What do we want the world to look like? There is nothing like a global pandemic to bring the meaning of our lives and societies into better focus.
How can we all thrive today and tomorrow given the quite confronting limits we face for our well-beings and the well-being of our planet?
We acknowledge cider is not an essential item for human life to go on. But our vision, why we opened a taproom and pour our hearts into making our own cider, is because we believe in its ability to bring people together. It allows us to slow down, build a community and enjoy life’s simple pleasures. To quite literally drink in moments together. We think the world needs more of that.
We also think it is a good time to talk about what we can do to have a more sustainable future. A future with vibrant communities where all residents and businesses thrive. A place where we minimize the damaging effects of human development and protect and restore our natural resources. The pursuit of the good life now should not be at the peril of future generations.
For Earth Day April 22nd, we had a conversation with Dean Landi, Co-Founder and President of St. Vrain Cidery. Now with these post coronavirus questions on our minds, this exchange takes on even more significance.
You may know Dean as the bearded front man of St. Vrain Cidery, making sure you’re falling in love with cider. In his former life, he was a marine biologist researching how to protect the Gulf of Mexico’s fishing needs. From there to working to advance solar energy in Colorado, Dean is a good person to talk to about sustainability. He knows his stuff.
Why is sustainability important to you?
I want to preserve the nature we have around us. I enjoy being outdoors, riding my bike and hiking. I had a big passion for scuba diving and being in the ocean and that was part of what motivated me to go into the fishery side of Marine Biology. I wanted to see how we could maintain our resources in the ocean. I’ve been involved with environmental sustainability for most of my life. I went from the National Marine Fisheries Service in Mississippi with NOAA to work in solar power energy.
I do what I can in my personal life and with the business to have the least amount of impact on the environment and other forms of life. That is one of the reasons we wanted to open a cidery. Cider uses less components to make the finished product and doesn’t need water. Unlike the process of brewing beer, our starting product contains all the natural sugars needed to ferment our finished product. We try to source juice locally in Colorado, but the majority of our juice is sourced from out-of-state and we are constantly trying to find ways to bring down its carbon footprint. We order with other cideries so there are less deliveries or make bigger orders at a time and store it until we need it.
I also like being involved in organizations that are doing what they can. I support Bike Longmont and the CORE Act, a legislation trying to preserve more wilderness space in Colorado. I learned about the CORE Act from John Mullan photography. He is a gifted wilderness photographer and advocate.
When Cindy and I renovated our house we did our best to do right by the planet. We sourced bamboo that was harvested sustainably. We put in LED lighting and high efficiency windows. Took out the furnace and installed a wood burning stove.
And we did the same for the taproom. We invested in on-demand hot water heaters and low flow appliances. These things aren’t cheap but they pay for themselves. It is better in the long run for you and everybody else.
What is it you like about your work now?
I get to walk or ride my bike to work which is really nice. I get to meet tons of people all the time. I am part of the local community and it is nice to walk around town and constantly see people I know.
It is fun. We get to mess around with different recipes. We get to see people’s reactions to things we’ve made. Plus, we have a unique model where we serve ciders from all over Colorado. To me, other cideries around the state feel like an extended community we get to be a part of. I love getting to know them and how they do things and be involved in their lives.
It is a nice part of the job to be a part of such a close-knit group and advocate for other cideries. Cider is newish here in Colorado but growing fast. When we started in 2016 there were 11 cideries. Now there are 27 and counting.
What Sustainable practices does SVC have?
We do our best in many ways. We try to reduce and divert waste from landfills. We use compostable cups. We have pretty much eliminated plastic containers for non-alcoholic drinks. We are limited though to what the producers provide. The food truck we recently launched serves everything in compostable containers.
We just bought an electronic delivery car. All the products we use to clean the taproom are biodegradable. The stuff we use to clean the production tanks break down and goes to waste water.
We don’t need special permits for haz mat. Our water bill is ridiculously low.
We source our apple juice from Colorado for our small batch cider and Washington mainly for what we put in cans. Until we can source everything from Colorado, we like to support local orchards by financing the planting of heritage apple trees with the Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project.
What can we do to encourage others to live more sustainably?
Everyone can make a difference in their daily lives and do things that use the least amount of resources. You can start with some easy ones like recycling and composting. Be more conscious of where you shop like shopping at farmers markets and local businesses. When you shop local you help the local economy and help smaller companies survive. Though not all local businesses have sustainable practices.
Longmont has a great Sustainable Business Program that we are in the process of joining. We can encourage other Longmont businesses to participate and access free resources and support to be more sustainable. I get it though, for some it is hard to make lifestyle or business changes when it has too much of an impact on the bottom line. Local products have a lower carbon footprint but are more expensive.
I encourage my staff to ride their bikes to work, but again that’s not available for everyone. One day if we build out a new facility, I’d like to add a space with showers so staff can ride to work and not have to spend their shift uncomfortable. We try to promote a healthy lifestyle and work/life balance for our staff. We provide health insurance and staff can get a discount at the YMCA through our corporate account. We offer yoga at the cidery on Sundays at 10am (before the corona shut down) and employees get discounts at SOL19 Yoga studio.
And giving back to the community is an easy one everyone can do. It is as important to us as sourcing quality ingredients for our ciders. We partner with small businesses and organizations all the time for events, we fundraise for local charities and every year donate a portion of our proceeds to Military Order of the Purple Heart Ch 434 and Longmont Humane Society among others.
As of last week, we joined the efforts of the Colorado Restaurant Association and the Angel Relief Fund to provide assistance to the food and beverage industry. We donate $1 per 4-pack we sell to help those directly impacted by Covid-19.
If you were a cider flavor, which one would you be?