My Semester of Food Upcycling

Since January, I have served as NetZro’s Digital Communications and Brewers’ Spent Grain (BSG) Recipe Development Intern.  Throughout this process, I have worked to incorporate more sustainable food practices into my own life.  Today I’ll be sharing my experience working for NetZro and trying to become a more sustainable consumer, baker, and overall human being! From my BSG recipe tests, I’ve found that people enjoy their food more knowing it’s something they can feel good about.  When you tell someone that the brownie they’re eating was made with spent grain and that eating it helps reduce food waste, they tend to enjoy the experience more.  It also appeals to consumers because most of the sugar is taken out in the brewing process but the protein and fiber remain.  That being said, I don’t use spent grain in my baking just because I believe it’s a good thing to do- although…
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Sustainable Uses of Spent Grain

Brewer’s spent grain (BSG) is the primary byproduct of the brewing industry and, if not managed properly, can become a source of food waste.  The article “Sustainable Uses of Spent Grain” by Kay Witkiewicz details innovative ways that craft breweries are repurposing their spent grain to prevent waste. “While breweries such as Twisted Pine Brewing Co. and Hangar 24 Craft Brewery employ “farm-to-foam” approaches in creating seasonal beers using local ingredients, many others give back the bulk of their spent grain to their agricultural communities—from “foam-to-farm” so to speak.” A closed-loop system is the economic model of a circular economy.  When products no longer serve their original purpose they are upcycled into new ones, often leading to nontraditional uses of materials that would otherwise end up in landfills. The farm-to-foam/foam-to-farm concept discussed in the article is similar to a closed loop.  Using spent grain as a farming input not only…
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Trash to Treasure

Upcycling ExplainedWhen a product is recycled, it is processed for reuse but most often in a way that downgrades its quality, giving it a new use but as a product of lesser value.  Upcycling solves this problem by reusing products in ways that uphold or improve their quality.For example, recycling could look like a piece of notebook paper becoming toilet paper; while this is superior to sending the notebook paper straight to a landfill, it still ultimately ends up in a waste stream.  On the other hand, upcycling a product maintains its quality to keep it in the “loop” indefinitely; for example, shoe company Sanuk takes old yoga mats and converts them into shoes.A Brief History of UpcyclingThe term “upcycling” was coined in 2002 in “Cradle to Cradle,” a book by William McDonough and Michael Braungart which outlines sustainable design theory.  While upcycling was introduced in “Cradle to Cradle,” the…
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