Little Green Choices Stack Up Big

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The story starts with an instagram scene: A jazzy cocktail with a paper straw, and a momentary “hurrah” for the environment. A few minutes pass and it ends with a flustered bar manager, arms tossed up, chin nudged down, burdened by the bigness of a problem and the murkiness of a solution.

Yet, while Green New Deals and spring blizzards mire headlines in the abstract, hidden in our bars and menus are countless straightforward opportunities to cut waste, lower our footprint, and clean up our acts.

Every piece of equipment, every design element, offers a chance for improvement. A rack of dirty dishes, for example, requires more or less a fixed amount of energy and water to become clean. There are differences between washers—some are certainly better than others—but those dishes have to get clean and there is no cutting the consumption tied to a given rack. However, easily changed is the size of a rocks glass. Using narrower glassware and a flat rack can cut a bar’s dish cycles by 70 percent. That means 70 percent less water usage and a lower carbon footprint.


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Likewise, smart menu design can help cut waste and fight climate change. Just as you would cost out any cocktail before it lands on the list, consider the carbon footprint of an ingredient as you add it to a drink. When carbon-costing your list for each ingredient ask:

  • How did this get to me? Truck? Plane?
  • How far did it have to travel?
  • How was it made? Pesticides? Burning bagasse?
  • Is this waaaayy out of season?
  • Do I have to refrigerate it for long?
  • Can I dehydrate it?!
  • BS packaging?!

The answers to these and other simple questions can inform the small choices that stack up big after serving piles of Daiquiris and thousands of Margs.

Read this: This New Marketing Strategy Will Pack Your Bar with Little Effort or Money

If we as a community are going to course-correct toward sustainability, it is going to require persistent effort and a new set of best practices. Just as in less than two decades we have made fresh juice ubiquitous, and hospitality a (front of) household word, we can establish waste and footprint as baseline considerations in every decision made behind a bar.

Eager to learn more about becoming a sustainable operation? Chad Arnholt and Claire Sprouse, co-owners of Tin Roof Drink Community, will teach 2019 Nightclub & Bar Show attendees how electricity, water, organics, agriculture, inorganics, and carbon footprint all have a role in getting greener behind the bar. Not only that, they’ll help operators identify challenges specific to their locations and how to scale sustainability efforts up in their communities and even the rest of the world. Don’t miss out on “Sustainability in Bars 101” and becoming a more sustainable operator—register now!

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