Sustainability Alongside our Communities

How does sustainability change with your bar's location?

Sustainability Behind The Bar with Claire Sprouse – Part 3

The classic trope of the bar as a haven from worldly concerns doesn’t resonate with me. Escape is a luxury, a privilege not accessible to most who bear the brunt of consequential decisions made by others. In the face of climate change, disengagement is risky; we need active, alert minds, not ones seeking refuge.

For bartenders, our challenge involves repurposing our influence from the bar, using it to give back to and uplift our communities. 

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to climate change; we need to choose our battles wisely. It’s important to understand that sustainability issues take on different forms across various locations. Being aware of what issues are most pressing within a specific geography can pave the way for collaborations and enhance our collective impact.

Water Scarcity

In Arizona, water scarcity has led to a shift towards locally grown ingredients that don’t require excessive irrigation and exist in a symbiotic relationship with the land. Bars and restaurants are sourcing grains and produce from Indigenous communities, like San Xavier, underlining their longstanding harmony with the environment. This highlights the necessity to heed voices, often BIPOC, already engaged in sustainable practices.

While conserving water is crucial globally, it’s less pressing in New York City, where towering heaps of waste from 8.5 million inhabitants dot the curbsides. 

Compost and Waste

On Governors Island, I collaborated with a non-profit to implement a Compostable Serviceware Co-Op model. This initiative included small businesses, restaurants, bars, non-profits, and educational facilities working towards a common goal – a Zero Waste Island. The alliance rendered eco-friendly supplies more affordable and accessible, enhancing composting on the island. This year, we’ve processed over 30,000 pounds of compostable materials. A guide from the Co-Op demonstrating this model’s feasibility for your community or large-scale events is available here

Sourcing Locally

In locations where limited local resources pose significant challenges (such as islands and mountain communities), sustainable practices are a priority. Some bars have embraced this by using reclaimed building materials and crafting local ingredient-focused drink programs, setting examples for other venues. These venues have shown that sustainability can be beautiful, delicious, and achievable.

A bar represents a bartender’s workstation, playground, and stage that delivers hospitality and conviviality. We can still provide a memorable experience for our guests without compromising sustainability intentions. Passive indifference is perilous, and instead of seeking escape, we should embrace our place in the world, our communities, and our industry’s growing commitment to combat climate change. 

Sustainable life remains enjoyable, and trust me, it tastes and feels much better.