Luke Truman’s job title at Allagash Brewing Co. in Portland is senior maintenance engineer, which means if there is a plumbing emergency, he is definitely on tap to do something about it. But he’s also on the “green team,” i.e., the sustainability team, which is made up of one person from each department at the craft brewery. We connected with him as he was trying to promote an upcoming event involving volunteers building out window inserts at Allagash, and the combination was intriguing enough for us to start asking more questions.

Truman told us he generally avoids talking about himself like the plague, but we’re grateful he did because it is not every day you get to chat with someone who worked on a dude ranch. And is seriously committed, professionally and personally, to sustainability.

A WINDOW OPENS: Starting this Thursday and running through Sunday, the Great Room of Allagash Brewing will be taken over by a buildout of nearly 300 window inserts for Window Dressers, a statewide organization that helps communities band together to make what amount to inexpensive interior storm windows for their friends and neighbors (and themselves too). These are the custom-built, reusable inserts made of pine and plastic that’s shrunken down over the frame and edged with foam, that can then be pushed into windows during the winter months to hold in the warmth and shut out the cold. The all-volunteer effort (you can sign up for it at windowdressers.org) runs four days, with 104 shifts, divided into four-hour increments. Allagash will serve lunch to volunteers. Truman will be there for sure, working on inserts that might end up in his own home in Deering Center. “I have three getting built at this build.” Truman and Kate Benthien, Allagash’s head of philanthropy, took the lead on the event.

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER: Yeah, it’s already mid-January, but for a lot of us, that’s when we recognize just how drafty the house is. “There was enough of a back log of people that wanted inserts and didn’t get them in 2016 that we wanted to provide an opportunity for them to get the inserts built this winter,” Truman says. There’s a sliding scale involved so that those who can’t afford to pay full freight for inserts (typically around $40 per) might get them for as little as $1 each. Allagash is chipping in $5,000 from the proceeds of sales of its Hibernal Fluxus beer (that’s Latin for “continuous change”), a Belgian-style stout brewed with figs. If you show up (and yes, “We still need volunteers,” Truman says), plenty of Allagash employees will likely be working on the inserts. The company offers its employees an eight-hour paid day for volunteer work in the community.

GREEN TEAM: As part of the green team, Truman participates in companywide efforts to source ingredients and materials locally and responsibly. He’s also a member of the Brewers Association Sustainability Subcommittee. “I do my best to connect the dots between our values and our actions.” In recent years (he has been there five) Allagash has installed solar panels and switched from chemicals delivered in 55-gallon drums to using a vast tank refilled from a truck (the chemicals are used to clean out brewing equipment). The Window Dressers event is part of Allagash’s philanthropy program, which focuses on donating 1 percent of profits every year to local organizations. The insert build could become an annual event – let’s face it, Mainers have a lot of drafty windows.

BREWING CHANGE: Then on a micro, but highly important level, Truman and the rest of the team look for ways to improve operations, like choosing sustainable materials for expansions, diverting waste (they send used grain bags over to Southern Maine Community College for cleanup crews to use in place of contractor bags) and just generally making responsible decisions. “We also push the brewery to join forces with organizations like Ceres, Environment Maine and the Sierra Club, through PCAT (Portland Climate Action Team) work, to stand up for our sustainability values.” Sustainability trickles down throughout the staff of around 120 (Truman was Employee No. 38), right down to its tour guides talking about sustainability when they’re showing people around. “Without the involvement of the entire employee base, we do not succeed in being a sustainable company.”

EMPLOYEE NO. 38: Speaking of, how did Truman land at Allagash in the first place? He and his wife moved to Portland about six years ago. That decision represented a compromise between her home state (Rhode Island) and his (Wyoming). “Dumb luck,” he said. After spending the first year working on houses with a friend, he landed a job driving a truck for the brewery; he just happened to have a commercial truck license. “That is how I weaseled my way in the door.” A few months later, Allagash needed a maintenance guy. “I was the maintenance guy at a dude ranch in Wyoming, so it was a fairly natural fit.” Dude, really? What kind of maintenance did he do there? Truman laughed. “You end up with a lot of interactions with a lot of human plumbing issues. I got really good with a drain snake. And then I also ended up having to replace a leach field for the septic system. But you’re also framing walls, fixing fridges.”

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS: Truman is planning on making sure the brewery is lit entirely by LED lighting and collaborating more with the waste management industry to make Maine a model for the Glass Recycling Coalition. He’s also figuring out a way to reduce his car commuting to one day a week, taking the bus or his bicycle with a trailer hitched to it to get his two children (ages 2 and 1) to and from day care. Being a parent has increased his sense of urgency about what sustainability efforts can do to counter climate change. “I have got to make up for lost time. Growing up in Wyoming, sustainability is something that is not talked about nearly enough. It is a very fossil-fuel-driven economy, and it is really frustrating. There is a reason that I left there, because I’m just not wired that way. I am not wired to not acknowledge something that is just so blatantly obvious.”

 

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