ASHLAND — It's one thing to talk about sustainability as a pursuit and lifestyle — it's another to live it.
Ashland's Standing Stone Brewing Co., the downtown food and brew spot, continued its sustainable progression over the past year and once again ranked among the state's greenest employers, according to rankings compiled by Oregon Business Magazine.
Standing Stone has made the list all four years it's been in existence and has ranked among the top three businesses three years running. After rising to No. 2 among the 100 Best Green Companies last year, the establishment settled back to No. 3. Still, no other entrant has matched the company's sustained performance during the past three years.
“After last year, there was only one place to go,” said Alex Amarotico, who co-founded the establishment 15 years ago. “We bounced back to No. 3, but that's a good sign. We're not only trying to be sustainable, but to sustain our spot on the list.”
Oregon Environmental Council, a clean air and water nonprofit agency from Portland, topped this year's list with a score of 290.00. Rose City Mortgage of Portland was No. 2 with 288.36 mark, while Standing Stone scored 286.76.
The list is based on sustainable practice surveys of both employees and employers. More than 20,000 employees from 431 businesses and nonprofit organizations took part. Companies needed at least 15 full- or part-time Oregon employees, and nonprofits needed at least 10 employees or qualified volunteers. The highest possible score is 300.
In years past, Standing Stone built its reputation by providing employees with bicycles. More recently, it has reduced waste and begun raising its own beef, lamb and chickens.
The restaurant greatly reduced the amount of trash it sends to the landfill. A year ago it filled three 95-gallon plastic receptacles three times a week. It's now down to less than one a week.
“We produce less garbage than the average family produces annually,” Amarotico said. “We compost the rest.”
The biggest change, and what perhaps puts Standing Stone at the forefront of sustainable practices, is its farming activity on 265 leased acres where it's raising 18 steers, four ewes, nine lambs and 250 chickens, all under the watchful eyes of three Anatolian shepherds.
“We would love to supply all of our own protein,” Amarotico said. “Hopefully, in the next month-and-a-half or two, we will begin processing our own chicken. That will be the No. 1-exciting thing, when that actually happens.”
Typically, two people spend half of their work day doing farm chores.
“It's really a half-time position,” Amarotico said. “But we like to spread it around and send as many people out there as we can to experience what goes on.”
The restaurant and brewery has grown at a 5 percent rate and now has nearly 70 employees, and the kitchen area is being remodeled to double the prep space.
“We were hoping to get that done by June 1,” Amarotico said.
While there is no guarantee of remaining a pace-setter, Standing Stone is not standing still. The business is looking forward to growing much of its produce in the near future.
“There are some companies not on the list that in the whole scheme of things are doing better things,” Amarotico said.
“We will never get there, but our goal is to keep working toward zero net-energy consumption.”