Creative Incentives for Bars to Go Zero Waste: Patrons Plan To “Get (Zero)Wasted”

drunkpeoplesmallAlcohol service may seem like the least likely industry to be taking up the challenge to go green, but increasingly, bars are seeing good return on investment for a variety of sustainability initiatives.  Getting bars to understand the win-win involved in waterless urinals, energy efficient lighting and sound systems, organic beer and wine, and going zero waste have all been the goal of Green and Tonic, a San Francisco-based group founded by return Peace Corps Volunteers.

This coming Saturday September 19th, Green and Tonic is inviting green-minded socialites to join them for an event designed to raise awareness and provide market-based incentives for bars to join the cause and go green.  The event, informally known as “Get (Zero) Wasted”, is a pub crawl of three of San Francisco’s greenest bars, and will raise funds through a live auction to help more bars go green.  A previous fundraiser in April 2008 for one of the bars now participating in the pub crawl has allowed that bar to divert 10,000 gallons of compostable waste and 6,000 gallons of recyclables from the landfill and give those items another life.

What does it mean for a bar to be zero waste?  It means that everything from the napkins to the straws to the packaging for their olives is either compostable or recyclable.  While compostable straws cost more than their plastic counterparts, the bar saves money by not even having a trash disposal service.  Employees can simply sort “waste” into two bins:  compost and recycling.

A very tangible benefit for these bars is in customer loyalty.  By participating in the program, patrons learn that the bars are committed to sustainability, which is not as obvious for a bar as it is for a restaurant.  When a patron reads a menu at a restaurant, they can see how many items are organic or vegetarian.  At a bar, it’s not quite so public.  Besides raking in a good sum of money during the bar crawl for a normally low-traffic time such as Saturday afternoon, the bars are also positioning themselves for residents as their bar of choice for other gatherings.

The bar crawl begins at Doc’s Clock at 4 PM, then heads to Casanova at 5:30 and the Elixir at 7.  Participants are expected to have a really fun time, raise money for a good cause, and raise awareness of an industry that really needs a green makeover.

Scott Cooney is the author of Build a Green Small Business:  Profitable Ways To Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill)

Twitter:  ScottCooney

Scott Cooney, Principal of and author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill, November 2008), is also a serial ecopreneur who has started and grown several green businesses and consulted several other green startups. He co-founded the ReDirect Guide, a green business directory, in Salt Lake City, UT. He greened his home in Salt Lake City, including xeriscaping, an organic orchard, extra natural fiber insulation, a 1.8kW solar PV array, on-demand hot water, energy star appliances, and natural paints. He is a vegetarian, an avid cyclist, ultimate frisbee player, and surfer, and currently lives in the sunny Mission district of San Francisco. Scott is working on his second book, a look at microeconomics in the green sector.In June 2010, Scott launched, a sustainability consulting firm dedicated to providing solutions to common business problems by leveraging the power of the triple bottom line. Focused exclusively on small business, GBO's mission is to facilitate the creation and success of small, green businesses.

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