Elixir Goes Green

H. Joseph Ehrmann is a leading cocktail authority and the owner/operator of one of San Francisco’s popular landmarks, Elixir. The place is warm and convivial and exemplifies the very best in a neighborhood bar. During the day, the place is sun-lit, cheerful and boisterous; at night, they draw the velvet curtains, dim the lights and the place transforms into a cozy cocktail lounge.

What many people don’t know is in 2005 Elixir became one of the first 50 businesses in San Francisco to become a Certified Green Business through the City of San Francisco Department of the Environment’s certification program. It is also the only bar to earn the distinction.

“We now keep logs of all kinds and have pushed our own expectations to exceed the program’s needs,” says Ehrmann. “We recently signed on with another long-time San Francisco restaurateur, Howard Cummins, and his new Green Restaurant Strategies consulting company. He has developed a program for not only helping clients manage this now arduous process, but helping them market its benefits to actually bring in new business. Thought the process is more strenuous and time consuming, I feel it is necessarily so.”

Ehrmann and the Elixir team acknowledge that change in our world will only come when there is mass action and dedicated decision-making to create it. To that end, they have woven these concepts into as many aspects of Elixir’s operations as possible—from utilizing the abundant and varied produce in their own California backyard as the foundation for the Elixir cocktail culture to working with local purveyors whenever possible to composting and more.

Ehrmann now works with both businesses and consumers on how to make green decisions that matter. For local restaurateurs he has pointers on how they can work these principles into both their business operations and their food and beverage programs and how bartenders can think sustainability when developing cocktails. For consumers, he describes building a green bar at home, drinking green at the bar and voting green with the money they spend.

According to Ehrmann, it’s about being a citizen and a part of a greater whole. “The reality is that we all must do what we can to not only reduce our impact on this world, but to help our industries grow and our cities to thrive. I decided to take what I had learned about organics and our food chain a step further. Think about how much water a bar uses (and wastes), how much electricity goes into lighting and refrigeration (and what can be saved), how much waste is produced (and can be reduced via recycling and composting). Just in those three ways the bar industry can set an example for other industries.”

The following are 5 tips from H. Joseph Ehrmann on how to begin turning your bar green:

1. Lighten Up — Swap out all of your bulbs to CFLs. There's no longer any reason not to. They come in all shapes, brightness levels, and sizes and are available as dimmable. An up front investment goes a long way. Don't forget bulbs in your refrigeration as well.

2. Save Water — Have your pipes checked for leaks. Put low flow controls on your sinks. Upgrade your toilets and make sure your ice machine is always working efficiently.

3. Efficiency is Key — Check your refrigeration and ice machines regularly for optimal performance. Clean the vents so they can breathe. Make sure all seals on the doors are working. And upgrade to Energy Star when replacing.

4. Recycle and Compost — Even if your city is still in the “green dark ages” there are private organizations that will take your recyclables and compost, and may even pay you for it. You'll be amazed to see how little you send to the land fill dump.

5. Invest Now — Every change is an investment of time and money that begins paying back immediately, but just like your initial investment in your business or your home, you'll see even greater returns over time; including return customers that want to support what you're doing and additional change you can effect with your friends and neighbors.


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