Bars are a great place to go for date night or to hang out with your friends, but choosing to support businesses that aren’t sustainable poses an ethical dilemma for many. Many food service establishments are changing their business practices to reduce energy, food, and plastic waste. But what makes a bar sustainable, besides swapping out plastic utensils? Here are three things to look for.
They Source Local Ingredients
Not only does sourcing local ingredients reduce the bar’s environmental impact, but it also supports local farmers and provides guests with top-quality, fresh ingredients. Though it may not be possible for a business to get all their produce locally—lemons don’t grow in the Midwest— an intentional effort to source local produce shows that this business cares about freshness and sustainability.
Seasonal cocktail menus are a great indicator of this. Ideally, they should be planned 3-6 months ahead of time and based on the seasonality of local ingredients. Another good sign is if bars use in-season products to create their own shelf-stable ingredients, such as syrups.
They Reduce Food Waste
From rethinking inventory to incorporating technology, there are endless ways for a food service establishment to reduce food waste. “Root to tip” cocktails that use the entire ingredient are a great example. Bars that serve food may also reduce portion sizes to prevent food from being uneaten.
Bars should also have a plan to make use of overripe fruits. Making in-house syrups is a good indicator of this as well. Overripe fruits could also be used in dessert items if the bar serves food. Any leftover produce should be donated to local food recycling organizations rather than being thrown away.
They Work With Small and Sustainable Vendors
The products they sell are also part of what makes a bar sustainable. More and more vineyards and distilleries are incorporating sustainable business practices, making it easier than ever to ethically source alcohol.
In particular, the beer industry is undergoing changes. Sustainable choices made by distillers can include reducing fossil fuel usage by using alternative energy sources, reducing water usage, and distributing their products in recyclable packaging. Sustainable bars proudly support sustainable distillers and small craft breweries over massive corporations.
These three things to look out for will help indicate whether your local bar of choice is operating sustainably. Happy barhopping!