Eco-bars: mixing business and ethics
It might seem a stretch to find a connection between environmental protection and the bar trade. The hospitality business, and the world of pubs and bars in particular, is not the greenest of industries. And there are three good reasons for that: chilling, a huge of amount year-round citrus fruit, and alcohol in bottles (glass production, heavy to transport, etc.). For a small carbon footprint and a zero-waste economy, professionals say that it is better to open a natural wine bar. The bar industry is now taking a keen interest in the issue, putting in place many different initiatives to start reducing waste. And even cutting it out all together. Yes, it can be done!
Nicolas Munoz runs a bar named Bisou in the eleventh district of Paris, which opened in 2017. He began using metal straws rather than disposable straws several years before the law preventing them came into force, and has a policy of having “the smallest impact as possible”, he explains. He believes that every little helps. He only works with products that are in season, and that applies to the thorny issue of citrus fruit too. His quite radical decision is to work only with citrus fruit from Menton, in the South of France, which means it is local and seasonal. The rest of the year, he “plays around with chemistry” to give his cocktails the right acidity and texture. All the products are processed optimally and – as far as possible – all parts of the fruit are used. Citrus peel goes into making essential oil syrup, the pith (the white part of the fruit) creates a bitter base, and the zest tops off his cocktails as a garnish. He uses downgraded products as much as possible, because their appearance (but not their taste) is irrelevant as they will be pressed, reduced and liquefied anyway. His bar spans just 31 m2, so there is no room for bulky or expensive technical equipment. And that means there are no excuses for other bars not to follow suit! A few months ago, he signed an agreement with the French company La Maison du Whisky, which is strongly committed to the Singaporean Ecospirits technology. The idea is to limit single-use bottles, improve monitoring on transport volumes, and buy certain pourable spirits in carboys – known as ecototes – which contain 4.5 litres; the equivalent of an entire case of bottles. These bulk containers are stackable, reusable and recyclable, and La Maison du Whisky takes care of all the logistics. It has even developed partnerships with several high quality, responsible brands that are respected by people in the bar trade.
It is important to note that not only do all these initiatives help protect the environment, they also save money. Because reducing waste is also a business opportunity.
Matt Whiley, a British bartender and multi-talented designer, opened the Re bar in Sydney, Australia, where he now lives. His concept is plain and simple: ZERO WASTE. Absolutely everything is recycled and recyclable, from floor to ceiling, and the content of the glasses and plates (in the adjoining restaurant) is, just like at Bisou and elsewhere, often made from products that have been rejected because they do not conform to a certain aesthetic. He has his work cut out for him, but doesn’t plan on stopping there. Before launching his project, Matt Whiley had to put together a network of key partners and work hand in hand with the many service providers he brought along on his journey. One of them is Dan Yee, a neighbouring coffee roaster, who is delighted to drop off his (large) bags of chaff after each roasting campaign at the nearby bar, rather than throwing them out. The local fishmonger keeps fish heads, the greengrocer puts damaged products to one side, the list goes on. The bar functions within a collective ecosystem, supported by the city, which has been set up to achieve its zero-waste objective. And Matt Whiley doesn’t mince his words: “we don’t measure our success based on not having to go to the dumpster, but by doing great business”. He goes on to say, “if we stop pushing, other people will stop pushing”. In other words, everyone has a role to play in creating a virtuous and motivating circle. Business and environmental activism are definitely recipes for success at Bisou and Re.