Luke Truman’s roots are buried in north central Wyoming, where he was raised in the small farming community of Worland, just a few hours’ drive from Yellowstone National Park. It’s the type of place where oil and gas interests hold sway, and the farmers market is just a few years old because most of the area farms are big commercial operations.

But Truman, 38, grew up hunting, fishing and hiking with his four older brothers and his parents, who instilled an environmental ethic in him that still guides his life today.

“So much of what we were taught was responsibility, and that the animals we hunted and ultimately killed, we didn’t take any of that for granted,” he said.  “We just respected the land and the wildlife and took that approach to our existence.”

Truman, winner of our Toastmaster Award, has lived in Portland only since 2011, but he has already contributed more to protecting Maine’s environment than many people who have lived here their entire lives.

He works at Allagash Brewing Co., where he has been a key member of the brewery’s Green Team and a leader in the company’s sustainability efforts, including waste diversion, solar energy and sourcing local ingredients. He is an active member of the Portland Climate Action Team, which is a branch of the Sierra Club. And he serves on the Sustainability Subcommittee of the Craft Brewers Association, which represents 5,300 breweries nationwide and is working with the industry to improve its energy use and waste management.

Most craft breweries produce around 600 barrels of beer a year, Truman said, a level at which there are inherent inefficiencies and “the collective impact is substantial.” Allagash has a longer track record and produces close to 100,000 barrels a year, so it has more experience and more resources to focus on issues of sustainable manufacturing.

“One thing I’m constantly pushing for other breweries to do,” Truman said, “is before you make any big decisions or start any big projects, reach out to those of us who have been doing it for a while and ask for help.”

Truman has also worked with the Sustainability Lab at MIT on four projects, most recently examining ways to recycle beer cans with shrink-wrapped labels. Printed cans are usually limited to high-volume canners, Truman explained, so craft brewers tend to use either vinyl or shrink-wrapped labels, “and these are having adverse effects on the recycling market.” Cans with such shrink-wrapped labels contain contaminants that burn off and pollute during smelting in the recycling process, he said, or many simply end up in landfills.

After attending the University of Wyoming in Laramie, Truman worked in the commercial hunting industry in Alaska “and swore I would never have a real job again.” He later moved to New York City, where he worked in “rope access” – he painted the atrium of the Marriott in Times Square, hanging only by ropes. For seven months, he traveled with his wife-to-be to South America, where they worked on organic farms in several countries. After moving to Portland, he used his commercial trucking license to get his foot in the door at Allagash by becoming one of their drivers.

Luke Truman says his environmental work is inspired by his family: his wife Lauren Tarantino, and his two children, Eleanor and Henry. Courtesy of Luke Truman

Truman’s family  – wife Lauren and children Henry, 5, and Eleanor, 3 – has been his biggest inspiration, especially when it comes to his work on climate change, which is “like rocket fuel to me,” he said.

“A big motivator for me,” he said, choking up as he talked, “is being able to look my kids in the eye when they’re grown and be able to say that I knew this was coming, and I did all I could.”

David Boneparth of Portland, who works for a risk consulting firm, became a volunteer at Allagash’s annual event building heat-conserving window inserts after getting to know Truman. “He’s definitely helped me be more involved and engaged,” Boneparth said.

Boneparth called Truman “phenomenally humble,” and said that his friend’s passion for the environment is “a part of who he is.”

Truman said it’s always his intention to inspire others. He feels lucky to have found others here in Portland with similar goals and a similar passion for the environment. His vision for the brewery and for the city is that they lead by example. “We can’t let the inaction of the governmental machine or whatnot, we can’t let that stop us,” he said.