It’s 2020 and a behemoth transformation of society is taking shape as we speak. CoVid_19 is going to change our lives forever, causing a lot of us to re-think our current understanding of our worlds, our jobs, and how we go about doing them in the post-pandemic world. We are beginning to shift our perspective to a more solution-oriented one and while the world takes a pause, the brightest minds in the industry are working overtime to think of ways to breathe life back into the industry when this is over.
In our search for rays of hope, we reached out to Tim Lefevre, Head Bartender at Door 74 (Amsterdam) and founder of Hiveball Project, an open platform created to give the drinks industry and enthusiasts an opportunity to be a part of a movement that focusses on sustainable solutions to drinking, and mitigating the rapid dwindling of bees with small and effective repopulation efforts.
While the goal of Hiveball Project is to engage trade/community, a large part of the success of this project will be determined by the consumer’s willingness to embrace it. One can’t help but wonder if there is a simple way to introduce this to the person sitting across the bar soon enough so you have their attention and in a way that will keep them engaged. Education would obviously have to be the starting point of the learning curve. Tim believes that this is where the effect of social media will kick in (a continued work in progress).
“On Instagram, a platform used by almost everyone nowadays, especially by consumers (as they take pictures and post so many of the drinks they have) you can very easily find the project (the name is the same as the project, @hiveballproject) and ‘become a part of the movement’ just by trying the drinks and tagging the profile. Hopefully this will trigger consumers to actually visit and follow the IG profile and stay up to date of what is going on within sustainable drinking culture. The profile will showcase projects by people who are engaged and taking part in sustainable drinking. Meanwhile it will also explain global climate problems in short and ‘easy’ posts and stories, as a way of educating people drinking at bars.”
Hiveball Project’s foundation is originally based on the revival and preservation of the dwindling bee population, with the eventual goal of repopulating bees through small but effective sustainable measures. Tim cites an example of an idea that has been small but effective in doing so. “I think the ‘Throw & Grow’ sticks created by Carl D’Alton (Cask, Cork) for a Ketel One community challenge during a Global World Class Finals is a great example of an effective solution. It’s basically a stirring stick with a little paper bag attached to the top of it, containing seeds to plant your own herbs and plants and in that way create small environments to support bee repopulation.”
As with any project that requires community effort and support, it will be crucial for Hiveball Project to gather traction via the network of bartenders and bar owners. One element of the practice of sustainability is to adapt current beverage programmes to include a sustainable element but a step further would be to think sustainably from scratch and make sustainability the base of all offerings going forward, so it’s more than just a token effort in the name of sustainability, but an arterial area of focus.
“What we see more often now in Amsterdam and The Netherlands in general, and other countries as well, is hotels taking up their responsibility and using the extra space they have to create sustainable projects. In Amsterdam for instance there are now already several hotels that use their rooftop space to create flower gardens, and hire beekeepers to come and collect the honey created by bees on those rooftops” Tim says. “The Tailor at Krasnapolsky Hotel is a great example here, as they’ve created a flower and herbs garden. Everything yielded from this is used in drinks they have on seasonal menus, including a sustainable summer terrace they’re now planning to open up. They also have plans to open the garden up to other bars to come, plant and yield their own ingredients, in this way creating a sustainable community.”
The other aspect one can’t help factor in is that of cost – how do you tackle that? The ‘cost of sustainability argument’ is one that bar and restaurant owners often use to reject sustainable products. While we all know that the actual cost is not money but the environment itself, how can one navigate that conversation in the short term to get through the gatekeepers with the cash and get them to invest for the long term and bigger picture?
“I think this is where it gets very interesting indeed. Consumers don’t like paying lots more than they already are. Cocktails are a luxury product, which makes them pretty expensive already, obviously you don’t want to add loads on top of that. And then there’s the idea we need to bridge that people would be paying more for ‘less-luxury’ ingredients”, Tim says.
“However if you look around there’s plenty of ingredients you can use which are actually not that much more expensive. Hiveball Project promotes growing your own herbs and plants, as they give you a cheap and completely biological product that you can use, and at the same time they also provide extra foodspots for bees and birds.”
Which brings us to the next obvious question: what are the affordable solutions one can look at in the immediate future, even if it’s a small start?
‘You can plant your own stuff (obviously as much as possible, as space is very often not a given). And then there’s looking at ‘spent’ ingredients. If you work in a restaurant/bar, reuse leftover products from the restaurant (this has been done for years and tends to yield interesting, flavourful and sustainable ingredients), or speak to your neighbours and see what they throw away and how you could reuse it. Secondhand ingredients tend to be way cheaper and can make sustainability affordable.”
In the short term, Hiveball Project has some noble goals: to work together as a community on several little projects with sustainability at the core, making sure they are impactful, effective, and eventually scalable.
“This project is about the sum of efforts, rather than reaching for a final result of one thing. If there’s any long term goal, then it is that the project will grow into something bigger than originally intended. And this is already slowly happening as we’re doing events together with other sustainable companies or companies that are working on their own sustainability, creating drinks that have bees in the back of mind and an overall sustainable character on the frontline.”
If you have ideas you would like to contribute or are keen to learn more about Hiveball Project and their community efforts, follow them on Instagram.
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