17 February 2011

Fill 'Er Up!

An article I recently wrote for an online audience. Just trying to keep my researching skills well-honed. Enjoy. -m

Fill ‘Er Up! : Developing an Eco-Friendly Bar

With people all over the world becoming environmentally conscious, it is getting easier to find restaurants that have earned eco-friendly certifications. Equipment like refrigerators and cocktail workstations are often designated as being green or eco-friendly (just look for Energy Star, EcoLogo, and Green Seal), but smaller, disposable things often escape notice, especially in a bar. Bar owners can consider changing just a couple of the following things to save money, energy, and even time.

Ice: Unless you have the physics know-how and time to make a solar icemaker, chances are that, like everyone else, your bar uses an ice machine of some sort. Clean water, whether it is distilled, purified, or filtered, produces the best ice. Water that freezes while full of impurities will make ice that could potentially taste strange to customers.

Cutting boards: There are several different types of cutting boards on the market; plastic and wood are the most popular materials. Bamboo is arguably the more eco-friendly cutting board material, and it’s strong enough that it won’t fall apart while your bartender is slicing dozens of lemons and limes during Happy Hour.

Aprons: From cotton blends to polyester and hemp, fabrics come in all colors and textures. Something to keep in mind while choosing an apron material is where it came from. Fabric is eco-friendly when it is made from natural fibers (like cotton, instead of polyester) that haven’t come in contact with pesticides.

Towels: The simplest way to ensure that towels behind the bar aren’t wasted is to reuse cloth towels instead of using up paper towels, which end up in the wastebasket after a single use.

Coasters and Napkins: Instead of using paper napkins, consider using reusable coasters. Coasters come in all shapes and sizes of recycled materials, including bamboo. Think about adding the creative touch of woven cloth coasters or unique pieces of glass instead of white paper napkins.

Straws: Depending on your restaurant branding style, you could use compostable straws made from corn-derived plastic. Their manufacture causes less pollution and they work just as well as traditional plastics. Straws can also be made out of stainless steel, which can be chilled for use in cold drinks. The alloy is hygienic, easy to clean, and with proper care, could last 100 years.

Produce: Lemons and limes are some of the more popular food items to have behind the bar. A great way to stay green is to buy produce from farmer’s markets, and you can save electricity by skipping the machine-made juices and doing it by hand.

“Green” alcohol: If you’d like to do more than conserve energy and prevent waste, consider buying liquor that is certified organic. Serving environmentally friendly alcohol could be an easy way to help make your entire bar eco-friendly.

Training: In the busy environment of a restaurant bar, it’s essential you train your bartenders in the new practices. They need to know what to use when, and that it’s OK to tell you if something new isn’t working.

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