Above: The class of 2017

Chris Hines MBE fits the Bombay Sapphire Glasshouse Project ethos perfectly. For a start, he jokingly refers to his honour, awarded for outstanding services to the community no less, as an acronym for “moany bloody environmentalist”. Secondly, he takes the sustainability issue really seriously. It’s that same careful balancing act  – entertaining on the one hand, while moving forward to drive change on the other – that’s at the heart of the Glasshouse Project and why he’s been invited to share his passion about sustainability in the second leg of this year’s event.

A glimpse inside the Glasshouse Project

Considering the subject in hand, it’s rather fitting that we’re seated in a very cool workshop-cum-oversized garden shed called Plant. It’s in Manchester but the 22 bartenders present have been handpicked from all over Europe. Accents floating around the room take in Dutch, Scottish, a smattering of Northern tones as well as plenty of chatter from the South. That said, the voice we’re here to listen to is Hines’.

His talk is one of four that have been carefully curated for the Reimagining The Future theme running through this year’s Glasshouse Project. “We’ve had Mark Shayler speaking about bringing side projects to life; Sean Pillot de Chenecey  on trends, insights and strategy and Dr. Rachel Edwards-Stuart shedding light on flavour science by focusing on simple techniques and new concepts in the realm of flavour and taste,” says Bombay Sapphire Global Brand Ambassador Raj Nagra. “Chris Hines’ segment is about the world we live in – covering everything from gender equality, current affairs, politics and of course the main issue – waste”.

It’s a big old task which could come across as worthy and dull. Not under Hines’ watch… As co-founder and former Director of Surfers Against Sewage, he was pivotal in delivering a massive change in the quality of water around the UK coastline and helped inspire a new wave of campaigners and activism. He then took on the role of Sustainability Director at the Eden Project and now runs A Grain of Sand, a charity set up to inspire minds and make a difference to the modern world.

There’s a mischievous but determined glint in his eyes as he presents slides showing him and his fellow SAS comrades campaigning in Downing Street. “There were 400 million gallons of crude sewage being discharged around our coastlines every single day, from Brighton to Bournemouth, Newcastle to Plymouth – what you flushed down the toilet went straight out of that pipe into the coastline, then we used to bathe in it. The tourist industry told us not to talk about it as it would ruin trade. We made it our mission to clean it up.” And through passion, desire and relentless and clever campaigning, they did. With no experience. Now, thanks to them, all water is treated with UV disinfection before it ends up on our coastlines. Result.

That’s the point of today’s session – we all have to do our bit to strive for better practice. Bartenders included. “Bars are places where people go and debate,” says Hines. “If they are able to provide little triggers to make people think more about what they are doing and why, then they’re a great place to reinforce change”. It’s refreshing to note that when asked, a good percentage of the room are already carrying out some kind of sustainable practice in their bars – from recycling plastic coasters and reimagining menus into business cards, to dehydrating spent citrus and turning it into powder  “These are easy things to implement and we share what we’re doing with our guests,” says Massimo Zitti from local bar Science & Industry. “Our guests really enjoy finding out what we’re doing and why we’re doing it”. But the rationale behind today’s session is to get them thinking and in turn, doing even more.

Max Venning (left), Daniel Schofield (right) working on their sustainability presentation

To get their brains tuned into the greener end of the colour spectrum, Hines gets the bartenders to divvy up into teams and choose from one of five topics covered in his talk: waste, health, water, climate and equality. That’s the easy part. They then have to create a provoking drink and canapé concept to serve to a mock GN panel. “Something that puts a point of view across about something you passionately believe could be changed, is the brief given. “Be creative in how you provoke,” advises Hines. They only have 20 minutes but their presentations which follow after have a chance to make an impression way beyond that.

We have a menu purposely designed “not to prescribe but to disrupt”, challenging perceptions of ‘his’ and ‘hers’ drinks. The Hers is blue, thanks to blue ice cubes made with organic red cabbage used as a natural food colouring, while His is pink, combining Bombay Sapphire washed with coconut, cocoa nibs, chilli syrup and egg white soda. Other ideas include a cleverly thought out menu for health, with XL for extra life in one corner and XL for extra large in the other. “Junk food appeals because of the way it is presented,” rationalises Gabriele Manfredi from Oriole in London, “So we’re changed junk food into healthy food (see below) with a healthy drink to go with it and added cues like the fake blood, XXXL pants and syringe in the junk food – so the health risks are more apparent.” It certainly made an impact with us.

The ‘wasters’ got down to business creating a gin sour, “as citrus is the most wasted thing in the bar”. For the canapé, they used cured egg yolk with hollandaise and coriander. “Lemon zest is infused in the hollandaise and we’ve fermented the zest with some sugar to serve as a non-alcoholic option. The juice of the lemon is used in the drink, while the pulp and sugar are dehydrated for a garnish. The egg white is used in drink, the shell used to make soda and any paper waste is turned into plates, coasters and menus. We fry the carrot peel and use as a garnish while the coriander is infused into the Bombay Sapphire to add a vegetal note. Finally, we use the Bombay Sapphire bottle as a candle holder.” Yup, that’s zero-waste alright…

There are other ideas too – each one impressing Hines and inspiring the rest of the room.

Bombay Sapphire Global Ambassador Raj Nagra addresses the bartenders on day one of the Glasshouse Project in Manchester

So how was it for the bartenders? Pretty damned good by all accounts. “Before the Glasshouse Project, I wasn’t fully convinced about sustainability in the hospitality industry to be honest,” admits Daniel Schofield from recently opened London fave, Coupette. “I think it’s great that we try and do as much as we can to recycle and be more conscious about how much we waste, but there are reasons why we didn’t use certain things in drinks – maybe they don’t taste so good.” Three days in Manchester has spun that on its head. “The Glasshouse Project really changed my outlook and just seeing the passion from speakers like Chris Hines made me have a different viewpoint,” he continues. “The passion he has towards doing good and something he believes in is truly motivational. I don’t think one person left that session not feeling inspired.”

And what of the three-day session as a whole? “I didn’t know a huge amount about what the Glasshouse Project involved before going down to Manchester but I loved it so much. It was so great to get to meet so many amazing people from around Europe and hear so many different points of view about our industry,” says Sian Buchan, taking a break from Panda & Sons in Edinburgh to participate in the three-day event. “Everyone there was so full of knowledge, I’ve come away from it with renewed love of the industry and excitement about the future.”

The final word goes to Max Venning from Three Sheets in London. “The Project flips the traditional meetings from competition and secrecy to collaboration and openness. The inclusion of people from disciplines outside food and drink brings perspective to what we do and also turns our eye to the world outside of our privileged bubble. I see this growing into a bigger trend throughout the industry where communication of ideas and sharing becomes normal practice.

We couldn’t agree more.

For more information on the Glasshouse Project, contact BombaySapphireGlobal@ogilvy.com

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