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10 Tips for an Eco-Friendly Home Bar

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There are things you can do in every aspect of your life to reduce your impact on the environment and the bar is no exception. We all know that we need to recycle our empties, but there is more that can be done behind the bar to make its environmental footprint as minimal as possible.

1. Buy "Green" Spirits

Tru Organic Vodkas
Photo Credit: © Shannon Graham
Many liquor companies are making efforts to add environmentally friendly practices to their production. There are many ways to do this, from the choice of ingredients to recycled materials and sustainable energy.

2. Recycle Empty Bottles

  • Create an easily accessible recycling bin for all of your glass and plastic bottles and take them to the recycling or redemption center; use a curb-side recycling service it is if available.
  • Make sure plastic bottles are recyclable.
  • Reuse bottles for home infusions or homemade mixers like simple syrup, sour mix, etc.
  • Some bottles are too cool to get rid of, but you can recycle them in your own home. Use them as garden accents, in craft or art projects, fill them with colored water for a beautiful room accent, or whatever you can think of.
  • Use a soda siphon instead of buying bottled soda water.
  • Cut up corks and use for furniture leg pads or glue together for coasters.

3. Ditch the Disposable and Plastic Barware

Think of all the everyday things in a bar that are thrown away after one use. Beyond cocktail ingredients, ice and garnishes everything else used in a bar is found made of a material that are washable and reusable. Some of these are a little harder to find than others, but it is possible and they can last for years. Avoid plastics if possible, choose bamboo over wood (it regrows faster) and look for items made from recycled materials.
  • Bar Towels - cotton, use instead of paper towels
  • Cocktail Napkins - linen instead of paper or use coasters
  • Coasters - recycled materials, bamboo
  • Straws - stainless steel
  • Swizzle Sticks - glass, stainless steel
  • Olive Picks - stainless steel, bamboo
  • Cutting Board - bamboo

4. Buy Used or Quality New Tools & Glassware

  • When buying bar tools like cocktail shakers, jiggers, muddlers, juicers, blenders, and the like choose high quality, durable products that will last longer than the cheaper ones.
  • Shop garage sales and thrift stores for used barware and glasses. You can find unique vintage cocktail shakers and old-fashioned glassware that is often smaller than the over-sized, modern options.
  • Some manufacturers are recycling the materials they use, such as turning empty wine bottles into glassware.
  • Use local resources such as Freecycle or Craigslist to find free or cheap used tools, bar furniture and appliances or use the lists to get rid of your unwanted barware.

5. Buy Fresh, Local Mixers & Garnishes

  • Use fresh squeezed juices to avoid using more bottles or cartons.
  • Ditch the electric juicer for one that requires a little muscle.
  • Choose organic, locally grown fruits, herbs and other garnishes.
  • Buy Free Trade coffees, teas, sugar and other common ingredients if available.
  • Shop at farmer's markets, natural food stores or join a food co-op.
  • Grow your own fruits, vegetables and herbs in a pesticide, growth hormone free garden.
  • Compost garnish scraps. Citrus fruits take longer to compost than other food scraps, but if you cut them up they will compost faster.
  • Bring reusable shopping bags to the market and liquor store. Keep them in your car at all times so you don't forget them.

6. Be Concious of How You Use & Make Ice

Ice is important in the bar. If you think about it, you probably use more ice than anything else when mixing drinks and that makes it hard to eliminate ice completely. The eco-print of ice is significant: you need water for the ice and electricity to freeze that water, then you dump half of it down the drain when you're done.
  • Unplug your refrigerator's ice maker, especially when the bin is full.
  • Switch to ice trays - you're using the freezer's power already, so eliminate the ice maker all together. Look for large ice trays (some will make up to 60 cubes) and non-plastic trays if you can.
  • Stock up on ice by storing finished cubes in a freezer bag or ice bucket.
  • Use only the ice you need and use cubes for mixed drinks (they melt slower).

7. Conserve Energy

  • The refrigerator:
    • Downsize to a small, energy efficient bar refrigerator that fits all of your mixers and fruits. Extra, empty space in the fridge uses more energy, so find one to fit your exact needs.
    • Check the seal on your refrigerator door. A trick to check this is to put a dollar bill in the door and close it. If you can easily slip that bill out of the door, it is time to replace the seal.
    • Use your kitchen refrigerator for your bar supplies.
  • Unplug unused appliances like blenders and juicers when they aren't being used.
  • Switch to non-electric appliances when possible. Juicers and ice crushers are two great examples.

8. Conserve Water

  • Install a low-flow water faucet or one with a aerator in your wet bar.
  • Wash all of your bar tools and glassware at once. If you have a double sink, fill one up with wash water and use the other for a rinse but don't fill either sink beyond what you need.
  • Don't pre-rinse if you use a dishwasher.

9. Change your Lighting

Mood lighting is more appropriate in a bar than anywhere else, so use it to your energy advantage.
  • Don't use lights unless you need them.
  • Light candles or use efficient LED light strips to set a mood.
  • Switch all your standard tungsten bulbs to Compact Flourescent Lamps (CFL). Recycle them when they do burn out as they do contain a high amount of mercury and are not landfill friendly.

10. Clean Green

A clean bar is a good bar, and you can ditch those chemical-ridden cleaners for greener alternatives.
  • Create a Natural Cleaning Kit for your bar (and home).
  • Buy "green" cleaning products from the natural food stores for cleaning surfaces and bar tools.
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