Ahead of the Sunsets Festival next weekend, we caught up with Angus McGregor and Ryan Ingram of Clean Waves Collective, who will be running a zero-waste bar at the eco-minded music event. Find out the inspiration behind going waste-free and simple ways you can adopt their approach in your own kitchen.

What inspired the concept of a zero-waste cocktail bar at Sunsets Festival?

ANGUS McGREGOR: The idea of ‘zero waste’ is a growing movement globally, however the uptake in the UAE has, for the best part, been slow. From the drinks and service side, I wanted to show that ingredients have more than one life and can be reformatted in many different ways, the end result being unique and ultimately tasty drinks. I think people can relate to the idea of “recycling and sustainability” but don’t really understand how that applies to food and drink, so this is a way to learn a few tricks as well as how to put them into action. Its more than just eliminating paper towels and plastic straws… much more.

RYAN INGRAM: The UAE generates more than 6.5 million tonnes of waste per year and of that Dubai contributes approximately 9,300 tonnes per day. That’s an average of 2.5 kg/person/day – 77% of which does not get recycled and ends up in landfills. Two of the UAE Vision 2021’s agenda points include diverting 75% of waste produced from landfill and reducing per capita waste production to 1.5kg per day. With Sunsets Festivals attracting large crowds, we see an opportunity to change the status quo and support the Federal Agenda by planning the event to minimize its waste production and partner with recycling vendors to divert as much as possible from landfill. Simultaneously, we’ll engage the festival goers by sharing our knowledge of the UAE’s ‘Zero Waste Movement’ and how they can dial into it and practice responsible consumerism.

Ryan, what are some simple ways people can reduce waste in their kitchens?

Well firstly, let’s touch on some of the reasons we waste so much food:

  • Confusion over expiration dates. The “best-by,” “use by,” “sell by,” or “best before” dates are not regulated and have nothing to do with food safety, and can cause confusion. They are an estimate of when the food is at “peak quality”, but these items can still be eaten long after the date has passed. Use the sniff or taste test before tossing it!
  • Ugly produce. Grocery stores only sell the most cosmetically appealing fruits and vegetables (only 30-40% of fruit and veg grown actually makes it to the supermarket) and other “ugly” produce that is safe to eat is simply thrown away. Try to buy ugly or from local farmers’ markets.
  • Poor storage. Many people are unsure of how to properly store food to keep it from going bad too quickly, but there are many ways to learn. If you are unsure, simply freeze the food, effectively pushing the pause button on its shelf life.
  • Other factors. Lack of meal planning or over-purchasing at the grocery store can lead to excess food or leftovers that must be thrown away.

Here are some additional tips to get started with reducing food waste:

  • Buy less of the food that goes to waste most often – a good reason to record your food waste at home.
  • Plan meals in advance using mobile applications such as FoodKeeper, LeftoverSwap and MealPlanner.
  • Cook smaller portions, get creative with leftovers, and learn how to revive food.
  • Learn tips to get kids or picky eaters to waste less.
  • Store each product properly and minimize plastic use.
  • Use vegetable scraps and bones for broth.
  • Learn how to preserve food and freeze food to keep it from going bad.
  • Compost inedible scraps or what can’t otherwise be prevented. It’s easier than you might think and there are numerous solutions being sold here in the UAE (MyGreenChapter).

Angus, which ingredients that are essential for a home bar?

  1. Acids: To most people this means a sour element. Citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, grapefruit or yuzu are the most used, however there are alternative options such as vinegars, malic acid and more. These can be blended and adjusted to make such items as classic vinegar fruit cordials called ‘shrubs’ that, if done right, can create fantastic depth of flavor.
  2. Sodas: When making classic highballs, soda makes up four-fifths of the drink, so you want to use good-quality ones. Alternatively, if you want to be a bit more adventurous you can try making your own.
  3. Sugars: Sugars are an easy way of getting creative. Most drinks work best with a balance of sweet and sour, so where you have acid you will also want sweetness. Sugars can range is guise from sweet sodas, Liqueurs, powder sugar, naturals sugars such as raw honey, agave and of course sugar syrups. Sugar syrups are a great way of getting creative as they allow you to infuse flavours and play with finishes.
  4. Herbs and Spices: A simple way to diversify your based flavours. These can be applied in many different ways, be it direct to a drink such as mint in a mojito, via shrubs and sugar syrups of combined into tinctures or bitters. The only limitation here is your creativity.

The Sunsets Festival will be held at Barasti Beach, 25-27 October.