Trash Tiki: Bartender duo tackling zero waste in the industry with zest, creativity and attitude

Bartenders Iain Griffiths and Kelsey Ramage are taking it upon themselves to tackle zero waste in the bar industry while also giving sustainability, and the conversations around the subject within the industry, a “personality injection”.

The unique duo, who have teamed up to create Trash Tiki, are aiming to get the cocktail industry to take a rummage through their bins and create cocktails from waste.

Trash Tiki is a pop up and online platform that seeks to create all ingredients for a tiki bar, from off cuts, unsold products and other raw materials otherwise destined for the bin.

Iain Griffiths and Kelsey Ramage, who are bartenders of leading London bars White Lyan and Dandelyan respectively, have created this self-funding platform to show bartenders how they can use their creativity to repurpose ingredients that would otherwise get thrown out, offering them inspiration and tips, including recipes using ingredients that the duo themselves have cultivated from waste.

Since launching their website, Trash Tiki, last October, the duo have also been taking their zero waste mission on a worldwide tour where they demonstrate their methods at bar takeovers. Bars in LA and London so far have had this twosome grace its spaces. Trips to Singapore, Helsinki, Edinburgh, Tokyo and Berlin are forthcoming for the pioneering bartending duo.

With the world bar takeover tour, the idea is the duo decamp in a bar or restaurant for a night and see what’s being thrown out in the trash – from the venue and even their neighbours. They’ll then work out recipes to use this stuff before popping-up in the bar/restaurant for the rest of the week serving up tasty cocktails.

Iain Griffiths and Kelsey Ramage say: “It [Trash Tiki website] is fully open sourced so that anyone around the world can be inspired and start changing the environmental impact of their bar, tonight.”

Like the restaurant industry, the bar industry throws away a huge amount of waste. According to Iain Griffiths and Kelsey Ramage, an average bar throws away up to eight bags of organic waste a night.

Trash Tiki have come up with recipe ideas, which they have shared on their website, from ingredients they have collected from waste. These include infusing rum with roasted avocado pits and pistachio shells, blending old almond croissants into orgeat and finding a use for all those squeezed lime husks, of which bars produce tons of in waste.

Zero waste is no new concept to the Australian-born Iain Griffiths, who alongside award-winning bartender Ryan Chetiyawardana, set up the pioneering “low-to-no waste” cocktail bar, White Lyan, in London’s Hoxton area in 2013. The bar uses no ice, no fresh fruit, and has reduced the number of bottles it sends for recycling to just 24 bottles a week – the average bar recycles up to three 300-litre-bins-worth.

The bar’s approach to zero waste is exemplary. White Lyan has managed to reduce bar waste so that the only thing they actually throw away are bottle caps and some of the plastic packaging around things like napkins. Everything else gets recycled or reused.

Other bars across the capital and worldwide even have yet to catch up with White Lyan’s practical approach to sustainability, which is in turn why the partnership between Iain Griffiths and Kelsey Ramage came about and the Trash Tiki project is so crucial to the industry.

Canadian-born, Kelsey Ramage, a bartender at Dandelyan at the Mondrian London hotel, was shocked by London’s approach to recycling when she first arrived.

“I was shocked when I came here,” Kelsey Ramage said. “The first thing I noticed, because I mean Vancouver’s got one of the best recycling programmes in the world I think, but London is terrible. There is separation [of different types of rubbish], but often things get lobbed in the same bin and people don’t take care to separate recycling.”

At White Lyan, spirits are ordered in bulk, citrus acid powders and vinegars replace fresh fruit, things like bone (chicken bones dissolved in phosphoric acid) and ambergris (ethically sourced whale bile) are made into tinctures and fed into traditional drinks and bottled cocktails.

While Iain Griffiths and Kelsey Ramage acknowledge that there is a need for bars to be more “sustainable” in their approach and have a responsibility for doing their bit to preserve the environment, the very word, sustainable, in and of itself can be a turn off.

Writing on the Trash Tiki website, Iain Griffiths and Kelsey Ramage say: “Call it low impact, sustainability or what ever else you like, we’re going to inject some life and emotion back in to the cold dead corpse that this conversation has become. We’re going to show you that reducing your environmental impact, has an emotional and economical impact that should put a smile on your dial.

“And hopefully we can get a few of your more serious cocktail jerks to lighten up, have some fun.”

The Trash Tiki pair are aware that in order for bartenders, like themselves, to make real change happen in the industry’s environmental impact they must take small, simple steps – an approach that is so evident in their bid to raise awareness across their website and in their bar takeovers.

“Every little bit counts,” said Ian Griffiths in an interview for Imbibe. “People obsess with the notion that it’s got to be all or nothing. If you can’t be 100% zero waste, then why even bother? But if you can make 10% difference, that matters so much.”

“By using the by-products of other bars or things that would be thrown away, we’re not actually bringing in anything new,” Kelsey Ramage added. “And while that’s saving us throwing things away, we’re also saving things that would be going in the garbage, which is saving a little bit of money. We’re getting more uses out of the same thing.”

On their website, Trash Tiki state: “No one needs another lecture on how modern society is beating the sh*t out of mother nature on a daily basis. What we do need is some f**king answers and inspiration, and we hope we can be just that. Its not about overhauling your whole program, but taking the smaller steps and finding inspiration in our recipes, methods and attitude.

“This sh*t isn’t going to change the world, but our recipes mean you will consume a lot less and still have tasty as f**k drinks. If that one step can be part of, if not the beginning to, the larger conversation the food & drink world needs to have with itself about our approach to waste, then hell yeah we think we should take it.”

If you run a bar or would like to see this duo at your local cocktail joint, creating delightful cocktails and ingredients made from by-products and waste otherwise destined for the trash, get in touch with Trash Tiki here.

Trash Tiki

Rosalind Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She is a writer specialising in sustainable life & style, music, entertainments and wellbeing. Rosalind also works as a spiritual life coach and intuitive advisor helping people to become who they truly are and manifest their heart & soul’s desires into their lives: www.rosalindmedea.com

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