The alcohol industry has a significant footprint that’s important to acknowledge. That means enjoying any kind of booze will inevitably cause ripple effects that negatively impact the environment.
Even so, as long as there’s alcohol on the menu, guests will order it. The key is finding ways to help them drink more sustainably. Here are six smart solutions to green your bar, home bar, or restaurant.
1. Go for Reusable Straws
Americans use approximately 500 million plastic straws every single day. Sadly, most of them end up in landfills or blow into waterways, where they pollute fragile ecosystems and kill wildlife.
As a mixologist, you have a prime opportunity to reduce plastic straw waste by serving drinks with paper or metal ones instead. Some restaurants even provide biodegradable straws made of plant fibers so you can feel good about serving sippable drinks.
Of course, you could always go completely strawless, which is the most sustainable way to drink. However, you might have a few frustrated customers on your hands, especially if you put a lot of ice in their drinks and they can’t easily sip them.
2. Use Cloth Cocktail Napkins
Ice-cold drinks can get sweaty and easily slip out of guests’ hands, which is why most mixologists use cocktail napkins at the bar. While they might improve customer satisfaction, those paper products certainly don’t do the Earth any favors. Think of the trees!
Drink more sustainably by serving cocktails with cloth napkins instead of paper ones. You can simply toss them in the washing machine at the end of the night and reuse them the next day. This way, you’re not contributing to so much paper waste and environmental issues like deforestation.
3. Repurpose Garnish Scraps
How many bags of garnish scraps do you throw away every day, week, year? Eventually, all that waste ends up in a landfill somewhere, where it releases methane and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere for months. Why not put those leftovers to good use by turning them into syrups and infusions?
For instance, you could reuse lime peels to make oleo saccharum, a traditional ingredient produced by covering the peels in sugar to extract their oils. Others might use leftover fresh-squeezed lime juice to create invert sugar, thereby extending its shelf life by an extra 30 days. When you run out of creative ideas, simply toss the garnishes in a compost bin or give them to a local farmer to feed the pigs.
4. Support Charitable Giving
Today’s eco-conscious and value-driven consumers love companies and entrepreneurs who give back. Charitable giving is good for the environment and business. Support sustainable and nonprofit organizations with your voting dollars.
For example, perhaps you frequently serve espresso martinis and other coffee-based cocktails. Maybe you could purchase beans from a company that participates in charitable giving or gives back to the community. Supporting businesses that partner with sustainable, fair-trade organizations is another way to create a more eco-friendly drinking experience for your guests.
5. Partner with Small Businesses
It’s no secret that large corporations are the main culprits of climate change. However, few people realize that 100 companies have been producing more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gases for the past 33 years. Every time you purchase ingredients or barware from one of these places, you indirectly support the planet’s demise.
Make sure you’re on the right side of history by partnering with small, eco-conscious businesses. These organizations should share the same values as you and make some evident effort to help save the planet. Doing so will keep money out of major corporations’ hands and in the pockets of people who will use it to impact the Earth positively.
6. Serve Beer on Tap
Packaging is responsible for roughly 5.4% of global food system emissions. That’s more than transportation, distribution, and other supply-chain factors. Considering all the packaging material that goes into individual cans and bottles, it’s easy to see why it’s so detrimental to the environment.
Luckily, there’s a more sustainable solution: beer on tap. Kegs are endlessly reusable, using fewer materials than bottles and cans. Plus, the chances of them ending up in a landfill are slim compared to glass and aluminum. Serve local drafts to support small breweries, reduce waste and save the environment.
Whether you’re a bartender, mixologist, or just someone who appreciates a good cocktail, sustainability should be the first and last ingredient in every recipe. If you care about the planet and want to make a difference in your community, prioritize more sustainable processes, components and initiatives.
Share eco-friendly commitments with your guests and ask them to support you on this journey to a greener future. Odds are they’ll keep coming back for more, especially if the people behind the bar are on Mother Earth’s side.