A bar with a mission

“Our 2014 mission is to become zero waste and carbon neutral,” says Bar 138 on Barrack’s Director of Operations, Matt Clarke. As the City of Perth’s first Sustainable Business Leader the business has already made significant progress towards that goal. After starting down the sustainability path in 2008 the bar now sends most of its waste for recycling each year, has switched to low-energy LED lighting and only uses paper products that are recycled, carbon neutral or sustainably made. From its organic and Fair Trade coffee to its locally-sourced produce, Matt’s team is committed to both the environmental and social standards they have set for the business. And it doesn’t hurt that many of these activities also boost cash flow.

Quality not quantity

Bar 138 is a family business with eight employees. “All staff are motivated by the desire to keep the business operating long term, providing them with a safe working environment now and into the future” says Matt. “Our retention rates are very high. The average employee has been with the company for 2 years.” However, the focus on sustainability did have an impact on revenue. “We enjoyed strong growth from opening in 2006 until 2008. Then there was a decline in revenue as we progressed towards a more sustainable model. This saw us concentrating on quality, locally-sourced products, a smaller number of better trained and informed employees and a higher quality of patron.” Since then the goal has been to grow slowly and adapt their policies as they go. If Matt had the chance to do it all again he would have gone for a more environmentally sustainable design and fit out for the bar right from the start.

Tonnes of difference

Matt reveals part of Bar 138’s journey in numbers. “Since 2008 we have reduced our energy usage by 28,960 kWh and our gas by 7,566 MJ. We have saved over seven tonnes of CO2 emissions via our supply chain, our water usage had dropped by almost 500 litres per day and our waste has reduced by 74,880 litres per year.” On World Environment Day Bar 138 teamed up the Western Australian Waste Authority to encourage Perth’s takeaway coffee drinkers to embrace KeepCups as an alternative to disposables.

Matt also plans to further reduce food miles. “We are currently working with local not for profit, City Farm, to take all our organic waste and coffee grinds and provide us with fresh mushrooms and vegetables. And by the start of 2013 we should be harvesting from our own onsite vertical garden wall which is currently in the design and testing phase.”

Communication payoff

Bar 138’s initial foray into sustainability was barely noticed by customers, but when it started to implement major changes questions were asked. “Customers started to ask questions about our products and why we did things differently to others so we engaged with our customers and the wider community via Facebook, our website and on-site materials,” says Matt. “Now our many regulars know what we stand for and demonstrate their appreciation for the changes we have made through their patronage.”

Bright future

Matt says the outlook for Bar 138 is very positive. “We have proven that we can maintain and grow our relationship with our employees, suppliers, customers and stakeholders and take them with us on the journey to better sustainability.”

In support of that journey, Matt is working on the final stages of a diploma in sustainability. “It helps me to determine best practice for the business in terms of sustainability,” he says. “With our current works in the pipeline we hope to achieve our goals by engaging with our community to reduce our impact even further.”


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