According to a 2013 report by the Waste and Resources Action Programme, 75% of the 920,000 tonnes of food wasted at hospitality outlets each year is avoidable and could have been eaten.
Furthermore, the UN aims to halve per capita global food waste at retail and consumer levels by 2030, making the role bar operators play instrumental in cutting down waste.
Nathan Larkin said the motto “reduce, reuse, recycle” was key at his Manchester-based vegan bar Speak in Code, and bar operators should aim to maximise every product coming through their door.
For example, a single grapefruit could become grapefruit juice, cordial, shrub, chinotto, garnish and sherbet if it were progressively infused in water, mixed with sugar, baked with bay leaf then ground into powder, leaving no excuse for waste.
Larkin put these principles to practice through creating the Facebook group, Wasteman of Manchester’s Bars; a space for operators to minimise waste through sharing leftover produce, proving one’s trash is another’s treasure.
Progress not perfection
Larkin also advised operators looking to operate sustainably to create food and drinks menus together rather than separately in bars and kitchens.
He said: “Where we reduce and reuse as much as possible is building the two menus side by side.
“Having chefs work with bartenders is definitely a way to cut down on waste within the bar and restaurant.”
Manager of the zero-waste spirits brand Discarded Spirits Co. Sasha Filimonov said the journey towards sustainability was about progress, not perfection, making both big and small changes a step in the right direction.
Discarded UK ambassador Calum Fraser said: “These can range from small steps such as bringing menu focus onto sustainable spirits, to much larger ones such as reviewing electric usage on appliances, or [operators] taking a look at their waste stream and asking if they are doing all they can to minimise the amount going to landfill.”
The Discarded team seek to reframe perceptions of waste through the World’s Most Rubbish bar, a portable bar where premium cocktails are created from discarded products.
Sustainability extends to the treatment of employees, according to Fraser. He said: “Hospitality needs to ensure now more than ever that the asks being made of our workers on the floor or in the kitchen are sustainable for the long term.”
When life gives you lemons
For the owner of London-based bar Little Mercies, it was important for bars to focus on other environmental issues as well as sustainability.
Alan Sherwood said: “A lot of bars have started reusing things like lemon husks to make syrups, which is a great start, but we should focus on swapping lemons directly with citric acids.”
If citrus fruits were replaced by acids, bars would reduce both physical waste and their carbon footprint, as the products wouldn’t have to be flown into the city.
Sherwood noted bars could maximise their environmental impact through making sure food waste, mixed recyclables, glass and general waste were kept separate.
Julien Barnett, manager of Brighton-based bar Gung-Ho!, said: “Go and visit the bars or restaurants that are trying to do sustainable things.”
Whether it’s sustainable straws or eco-friendly candles, visiting bars can spark inspiration for creative ways to make your venue more sustainable.