Sustainability Background and General Strategies
Lessening environmental impact and increasing sustainability at the cocktail bar is a journey rather than a destination. There are many types of bars in the world and not all of them can execute most of the tips on this website - and that's okay! Our hope is that every bar and bartender can make some changes, large or small, toward lessening their environmental impact.
Below are some general strategies that can be used generally at the bar. One way to brainstorm ideas to might execute is to take a single item or service - napkins or bar tickets, for example, and write down all the ways that they're used and where they go when they're discarded. Then work through the list of R's below to gather ideas on what can be done differently.
Rethink, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Refill, Repair, Repurpose, Recycle, Repeat, Rot!
Remember that these strategies are in order! We want to repair an item to give it a longer life before we toss it in the recycling bin, for example.
- Just because things have always been done one way doesn't mean they need to always be done that way. A bar with no ice machine? A bar that doesn't use fresh citrus? Extreme, but those have been done (at the same bar, actually). What else might we rethink?
- A bar that sets drink prices based on cocktails drink's carbon impact? A bar that distills all its own spirits in-house? One only open when solar panels produce enough power? A bar where patrons generate the electricity riding on exercise bikes? One only open until local produce runs out? With only home-grown produce?
- Can you eliminate the need for something entirely? We've seen that recently with plastic straws- not only are some bars changing to paper compostable straws, many are eliminating straws altogether. Same with swizzle sticks and other disposable plastics.
- In addition to the citrus and ice mentioned above, what else might be eliminated? Plastic wrap? Coasters? Bottled sodas?
- We can reduce products, power, produce, and the waste from these items. There is almost nothing we can't cut down on if we design smarter systems.
- Many bars are looking toward reduction of waste water and produce items that are tossed away at the end of the night. Some bars serve straws only upon request; others reduce harsh cleansers but cleaning with vinegar.
- Reuse, Refill, Repair, and Repurpose.
- In the bar we reuse the furniture and glassware but dispose of alcohol bottles alcohol bottles after a single use. Before we recycle or compost something, can we make a second use of it?
- We might reuse a coconut shell as glassware, refill bathroom soap dispensers from bulk bottles, repair a juicer instead of buying a new one, or repurpose cherry jars as take-out containers.
- We can consider pReserves as part of this section - to lengthen the lifespan of local and/or seasonal produce by using one of many preservation techniques.
- Before recycling externally, can we recycle internally? Instead of "burning the well" of ice at the end of the night, can the melted water be used to water the plants or for the next day's stock in the kitchen?
- External recycling, where objects are taken away and reprocessed, should be a later action. But importantly, does your municipality recycle at all? Can they recycle more than just glass and aluminum? Can you pay a private company to take your recycling?
- Compost, in-house or externally.
- Some bars ferment leftover juice or citrus waste into sodas.
Pay Attention to Purchasing
We've all heard of buying locally and seasonally, but often at the bar we are used to buying limes all year round and ordering spirits made all over the world.
Beyond what we purchase, we can support the other business and people who embrace a more sustainable world. See the Sharing Your Vision page for more info.