There’s something I need to tell you: I am an environmentalist. More accurately, I’m a lapsed environmentalist.
More than a decade and a half ago, I was the editor of the ‘green’ pages in the local paper I worked for. Among other things, I wrote about the evils of plastic and the need for reusable carriers. I wasn’t too bad at practising what I preached.
Ironically, when I moved to a job at a conservation organisation, surrounded by other environmentalists, I stopped worrying about the problem. It’s one of the dangers of becoming an insider in sector or industry, you can develop an insular view of things.
So now I feel like I’m waking up, for a second time, to what we’re doing to the environment and how desperately we need to reduce our impact on it – before we not only destroy all the wildlife but ourselves also.The call to ban plastic straws is tip of the iceberg-type stuff when it comes to what’s needed.
But I suspect it’s very much the flavour of what’s to come – in terms of what consumers will expect and demand of businesses and governments in future.
Recipe for success
So a Sustainability Seminar held at the start of Norwich’s City of Ale felt timely. The main speaker was Adnams Brewery’s Environmental Sustainability Manager, Benedict Orchard. So seriously does the brewery take its commitment to the environment, it employs someone to oversee all things green.
I knew Adnams had some award-winning eco credentials but I didn’t realise the extent of them. For example it is a ‘zero to landfill’ company. Most of its organic waste is reused as animal feed, the rest composted in an ‘anaerobic digester’ that generates energy, in the form of methane, that is then fed into the national grid. Steam is captured during brewing and reused for heating. Condensation is recovered enabling reuse of water.
Not only do such measures reduce energy and water use, and therefore environmental impact, they cut bills too.
For Adnams, going green has been a recipe for success. As its impact on the environment decreased, it made more beer (and also spirits), more money and increased their share of the market. “Those who act responsibly are attracting revenue,” says Orchard.
To say that being green is sexy might be an overstatement, but it certainly hasn’t hurt Adnams. If you’re anything like me you’re probably thinking, “Yeah, but how much did they need to spend before they began to save?” For example, I have solar panels. They cost a few grand. Although the bills were immediately lower, and I get paid for generating energy (that goes back into the national grid), it will be five years before they’ve paid for themselves in full.
Small steps first
Hard-pressed licensees might not have the money to go green but if you run a pub in Suffolk or Norfolk, there is some help available.
A project called ‘BEE Anglia’ (the BEE stands for business energy efficiency) offers free environmental audits looking at things like lighting, heating, insulation, double glazing and so on, to see if it can find money-saving improvements that will also benefit the environment. It also helps with applying for grants – and has so far enabled almost 60 businesses to get grants worth a total of nearly £300,000.
“Although you need to invest, [doing this] can save money and often can pay for itself within a year,” says BEE Anglia’s Rex Kellett. The initiative also offers a Carbon Charter Accreditation scheme that helps tell customers how environmentally responsible a business is. It is not called the ‘sexy green scheme’ but you could see it that way.
Plenty of people will fancy coming to your pub if they feel they are supporting a business that cares for the environment. Even people who aren’t fully engaged with being more green, or don’t quite understand what’s at stake. The feel-good factor created by saving a puffin from starvation or not killing a turtle is not to be underestimated.
You don’t need to transform the whole of your business at once. Start with small steps, like drinking straws, but then step up and do more. Even improving your vegetarian menu can be a green action – when you consider the environmental cost of producing meat.
Pubs that decide to become more green and sustainable now will find themselves ahead of the game when environmental credentials become the difference between attracting lots of customers or very few.