5 Tips to a More Sustainable Bar
Bartending not only can be a costly business, but also quite wasteful. With sustainability trends picking up in the past few years such as sustainable travel, adventure travel, zero-waste lifestyles and more sustainable diets like cutting off meats for personal growth and the environment, sustainable bartending is now one addition to the list!
Cocktail making is quite a meticulous craft with many elements involved in small portions, which means if many of these ingredients are bigger than the small amount that is used for each cocktail, then it will most likely end up half-used and in the trash. Why is this? At such a fast-paced environment, there might barely be any time for rethinking your set-up and sustainable options, however, it is all in the planning of that set-up that will help you achieve a friendlier practice with the planet, your customers and even your budget! We have compiled 5 tips for you to turn your bartending around in the right direction towards a more sustainable way of doing it.
Know your cocktail garden
Wait! Before you roll your eyes at this popular option, we want you to know it is one of the easiest ways to be more sustainable. It only takes a small patch of land at your bar or even just nearby – or an étagère that can fit anywhere – to plant as many garnishes, herbs and berries as imaginable. Although, yes, this might take up a bit more of your time, it will massively save on transporting, packaging and general supplying costs that will go onto some other improvement at your bar. Moreover, you will assure an endless supply of fresh and organic ingredients that your customers will love.
If doing the gardening yourself is not an option however, this can still be solved. It is as simple as knowing your supplier well and making the demands you need. This could be, for example, demanding less packaging which might save you and them costs in the process, and will mean less waste in the trashcan for you. Ensuring that you choose the right supplier goes without saying, but just to make sure, it is good to know that they are also doing their part for sustainability and that it is something they care about. After all, sharing a vision makes for a stronger alliance – this applies for both produce and spirits suppliers.
Feed nature back, composting!
The biggest waste created while bartending after single-use plastics is food waste. Many of these scraps and organic waste can be easily separated to be composted. Regardless of your in-bar cocktail garden projects, composting is always a great way to give back to nature without creating any waste. The leftovers from all the fruits, veggies and selected papers used in your drinks can always come in handy for another garden or your own!
Many cities have composting programs which allow their residents to take their weekly compost to specific sites or even schedule a pick-up for businesses, in which case you can choose to store them in a separate room in your bar or freeze them until the time has come to take out the trash. In the case that your city does not do this yet, try checking in with your produce suppliers to see if a helpful trade can be arranged for your compost to be used by them.
If you do have your own garden to use the compost on, check out these handy composting do’s and don’t’s for further guidance.
Giving a second life
If composting sounds a bit too overwhelming or simply too much of a dirty job (it can be), then consider using your food scraps on something else. Many fruits can go through an ‘oiling’ process, which basically means leaving their skins in with lots of sugar and within a day, the oil from the skin combined with the glucose will be creating a fruit syrup that can be used in measure in your drinks. This blood orange oleo saccharum recipe can give you an idea of how this can work with any other oily-skin scrap.
Another way of going about reusing scraps is fermenting them with some water, yeast and sugar – nothing more – to get your own fruit soda water.
One last route you can go with your scraps and fruits in general is dehydrating them. Perishables, especially produce which are best fresh or not at all, can easily go bad while they wait to be used. If you have been having a bad case of rotten produce, dehydrating them can be a great alternative for you. There is no need for a dehydrator as even an oven on low heat can do the job, and these dehydrated fruits can be used as all sorts of garnishes for your drinks, giving them a slight unconventional appeal.
The less plastic, the better
If our sustainable travel journey has taught us anything, it is that single-use plastic has got to go. These days it might go without saying, but to become a little more sustainable, cutting disposable plastic is of the essence. At a bar, plastic straws and stirrers are one of the most used elements to dress and style a drink, however the amount of single-use plastic wasted on them can be quite a headache to the environment, and one you would like to avoid getting into your trashcan as well.
A recently popularized alternative to straws is biodegradable ones, be it paper or biodegradable plastic, either could be chosen depending on your bar’s focus and needs: one of them can be composted and the other can be sent to the landfill knowing it will not live underground for long. Although stirrers can be a bit trickier to outsource, a quick online search will sprout many new options that are now available for metal/aluminum/bamboo stirrers that will serve both the looks and the purpose.
All limes aside
Our last stop will consider limes and lemons. And yes, they may seem harmless and compostable (they are), but because of how frequently they are used in drinks given their bitterness, they call for a replacement. Having to upcycle and deal with citric scraps so often, perhaps too often, plus the carbon footprint and costs of transportation and harvesting, might mean they can be changed up with something else.
Citric acid and fermented drinks (like the ones made from food scraps) can be a great replacement for citrics themselves, as they perfectly mimic ‘bitters’ in a cocktail recipe. Citric acid might be the best take though, as a little can go a long way and can last lots of time in your bar’s pantry.
From sustainable travel to transformative travel and beyond, we care about sustainability on all spectrums of life and hope these tips can help enliven and turn your bar just a bit more sustainable each day. Going overboard on sustainability can be overwhelming, which is why we recommend doing baby steps for any of the above tips that might work best for you and your business. Any small adjustment can make a huge difference for the planet!