As a small business, it can sometimes be difficult to stop and look at what you are doing and how it impacts on the community and wider world, particularly when you're starting out and in survival mode.
When we look back over the last few years on our environmental impact and what we've brought to our community, we're broadly positive about what we've achieved. In 2017 we started work on our new site, which at the time was a derelict old building, and brought it back into working life as a community asset. We didn't have the capital to splash out cash on lots of sustainable materials because for the most part those materials are so much more expensive than their non-sustainable equivalent.
Instead, we reclaimed much of the wood and materials you see in the venue today. For example, the whole of our bar front was pulled out from an old closed-down pub in Old Street, then spruced up and re-constructed it onsite. Part of the beautiful old beams from the bar were used to construct our lighting fixtures. Similarly, all the wood cladding used on the walls of the venue we found as old floor boards in our basement. These, and many other elements of the build were borne out of necessity to build in a cost-effective way rather than a particular focus on sustainability, but looking back the lessons we learned about re-using discarded and wasted materials were invaluable.
Having now matured as a business, we've been focusing over the past 6 months on building a plan to change our business operations to significantly reduce our impact on the environment. Again, as a small family-owned business with limited resources, it's not easy to switch over to often more expensive products or supplies, and any decisions we make have to be commercial to ensure the business doesn't unnecessarily suffer (and put jobs at risk). Instead, we feel the move is more of a process, looking for easy wins or action that has the greatest immediate impact, and gradually addressing other issues when its right for the business.
Here's some of the things we've committed to:
- Increase our recycling rate to 100%
- Create incentives for customers to reduce the use of takeaway/single-use packaging
- Reduce the food miles of all food and drink served through a sustainable sourcing policy.
- Create a roof garden to grow food and wildflowers, supporting local biodiversity and reducing food miles.
- Reduce food waste through better portioning, donating unused ingredients and revising our menus.
- Switching our electric contract to renewables
- Increase the number of plant-based options on our menus
We're definitely no heroes for implementing these changes, and most of them should be relatively easily achievable by most businesses in our sector, particularly those with larger resources. The fact that many of the larger corporate chains haven't already achieved the above is lazy and shows a lack of awareness (or care) about the impact we all have, and why it's essential we make these changes as soon as possible. No doubt there will be things we've missed or new problems we become aware of, but the process of getting everyone in the business focused on these issues has been amazing, and we're all committed to doing whatever we can to reduce our impact to zero.