As a distillery owner, Karen Hoskin has spent nearly ten years attending every kind of tasting and cocktail event hosted in the spirits world, in the US and overseas. She sponsors art, music and film festivals. attends industry trade shows, and bartends at some of the bar world's prestigious gatherings. But Hoskin is fed up.
"Cleaning up at the end of events, I couldn't avoid seeing trash cans filled to overflowing with plastic cups, straws napkins, and stir sticks, It started to make me sick. I was the problem. Not the organizers, not the distillery next to me. Me. I had to make the change."
About 5 years ago, Hoskin began a sustainability revolution inside her own distillery. She began by converting all of her company's energy consumption to sustainable sources, primarily wind, and offsetting her company's carbon production. She extended the corporate program to her employee homes as well. Then she ditched plastic cups and straws company-wide. All of the consumables at her Tasting Room are either glass, fully recycled paper products (napkins, papertowels, tp), reusable (stainless steel straws, stirrers) or compostable (food waste, trash bags). Her merchandise is sustainably-sourced (t-shirts made from old x-rays and ketchup bottles, hats from recycled polyester). She switched sugar cane suppliers to a 100% biomass operated mill. Montanya Distillers began to offset its carbon production for freight, travel, and distilling. The revolution went deep into the company's supply chain.
Hoskin isn't finished yet. Every year she takes more steps along the sustainability path she set for her business. In 2016, she began limiting her participation and sponsorships to zero and very low waste events, or events that allow her to bring her own serving supplies.
Karen Hoskin's 5 Steps to Ditching Trashy Events
Trash doesn't look good on an event. The aesthetic is almost as important to Karen Hoskin's company as the cocktails and spirits they serve. A beautifully launched event can be ruined by piles of trash accumulating at the periphery or on the tables. Glass and stainless steel improve almost everything about the look and feel. Most importantly of all, eighty proof alcohol acts as a solvent on plastic and changes the flavor of any spirit. Consumers should be saying "no" to plastic at spirits tasting events.
1) Biodegradable and recyclable cups are rarely biodegraded and recycled. Unless these expensive cups and containers are conveyed to a facility that biodegrades or recycles, they are just like other plastic cups - still in the landfill in 100 years. Eco cups are a "feel good" thing at most events, so Karen ditched them. She seeks events to sponsor that provide all participants with a glass to use, or allow her to serve in glass. Most venues have commercial dishwashers and copious glassware. Plastic is just the lazy choice. Many events will help find a solution if they value your participation.
2) If you don't bring plastic cups and straws to an event, you won't use them. Karen and her event staff used to bring back up plastic cups to events as a convenience for her customers. Once she ditched even this convenience plastic, customers and event planners got better about providing glass alternatives.
3) Nobody needs a straw. Americans toss 500 million drinking straws a day. Why? Nobody really knows, except that it is a habit. Perhaps it is a little relaxing to stir a cocktail? Hoskin provides stainless steel straws and stirring sticks at cocktail events and in her own rum bar. She also sell them whenever possible, so people won't steal them.
4) Control your garbage. If something needs to be recycled like a cardboard case box or empty rum bottles, Hoskin takes it herself to a proper recycling bin. After watching too many event staff toss boxes and glass in the nearest trash to avoid the extra steps, she stopped letting them help her.
5) Collaborate with sustainable partners. Montanya Distillers hosts and sponsors hundreds of industry events and bartender events each year. If Hoskin is near home and driving, she negotiates to bring her own serving glasses and dishes. Further from home, she borrows and returns all kinds of reusables. She also researches and finds vendors who meet her zero waste standards and invites them to collaborate on her events. Recently she hosted a lunch for 44 San Francisco bartenders with GreenTiffin. They served 44 individual lunches without a single throw away item. In August 2017, Hoskin sponsored an art festival lounge, which served 400 cocktails without a single item in the trash. She donated the plastic bags the ice was delivered in to a company that uses plastic bags to make Trex decking.