When Singapore’s go-to Mexican joint announced that they wanted to embrace more sustainable business practices, we knew we’d found our match made in heaven — there is nothing sexier than sustainability served alongside a kickin’ margarita. Fast forward a few months and today, the marriage has yielded some serious results…
Here at Green Is The New Black, we don’t just share sustainable stories from around Asia and throw Conscious Festivals, we also work within our communities to help businesses become greener. Now we know change doesn’t happen overnight but it does happen by embracing a #LittleGreenSteps philosophy and working towards making positive changes that are built to last (longevity is the backbone to sustainability, after all) – even if it takes a year, which is about how long we’ve been working with The Loco Group on their sustainable initiatives.
If you feel the same about margaritas as we do, then you’ve probably been to The Loco Group restaurant either at Duxton Hill, Robertson Quay or Customs House. Think tantalizing tacos, mezcal margaritas, and ceviche. It’s also a place for loco people to flourish and grow, they say. We are already huge fans of all of the above but their commitment to sustainability has taken this love affair to another level. They recognize that their business was growing and as such, so was the footprint they left on the environment — and that was no bueno. So they decided to make some changes.
“The Loco Group can’t change the world on its own but being a people business, we are humbly able to influence and reach many people through our sustainability efforts” said Will Leonard, General Manager of The Loco Group. “If our efforts can inspire others to make a pledge in making their own footprints a little smaller — then that is truly powerful and game-changing for the community and the world we live in.”
“Sustainability does not mean a race with a defined finish-line,” he added. “That’s why you’ll never hear us claim to be ‘totally sustainable’. Sustainability is a journey we’re on to make the footprints our business leaves behind a little smaller each month, each quarter and each year.
As such, they embarked #LittleGreenSteps (or in this case #LocoGreenSteps) together with our team and here is what we accomplished together:
What’s been done so far…
- Say bye-bye to placemats – Lucha Loco has ditched its placemat menus and is now saving on printing over 30,000 pieces of paper a year
- Imported mineral water has been phased out at the Robertson Quay location in favor of a premium water filtration system, which will save 12,000 kgs of glass waste a year as well as reducing carbon emissions from the importation of the product
- Sayonara straws! The group eliminated single-use plastic straws across all their establishments and this has saved 144,000 straws a year being thrown away and biodegradable straws are available only upon request
- Ensured all their packaging and single-use disposables are biodegradable and come from a sustainable source, this has saved 4,500 kgs in plastic waste per year
- They reviewed their supply chain to ensure all their printing paper comes from FSC-certified sustainable sources
- They’re using canola oil (NOT palm oil) in their fryer
There is still more to go…
- Recycling bins will be sourced to help separate rubbish
- At Lucha Loco, a recycle bin will be added at the dumpster
- At Robertson Quay, there is already a designated area for recycling bins
- At Customs House, they have an existing communal recycle bin but some tenants aren’t using it properly so a solution is being reviewed with the building landlord
- For our new concept opening in April, a 100 kgs of food waste every week will be composted
- Their new concept will be sourcing all its leafy vegetables from an organic farm in Singapore
- The group will be looking to source sustainable seafood which will involve a field trip to farms to see for themselves how sustainable it really is
Naturally, we’ve become really big fans of Will Leonard, through this collaboration. As such, over the aforementioned margaritas, we asked him a bit about the process and if, in the end, it’s saving him any money.
GITNB : How has your personal journey been with sustainability (did you have an awakening that led you to take action or it was progressive)?
Will : It’s always been something that I’ve been interested in and cognizant of, although it was only really within the last 12 months I realized how easy it is to be more sustainable at work or home. I was very fortunate to find myself in a position at work where I was able to influence and lead our organization to become more sustainable and that’s what gave me an added push.
GITNB : Why was it important for you to take the group down a sustainable path?
Will : A number of reasons, more and more it’s hitting home that we’re staring down the barrel of global environmental crisis if we don’t act. Being humble enough to realize that our company alone will not change the world, but if we through our actions can inspire others to become more sustainable then that’s how we magnify our efforts and really make a difference. We are very fortunate to be in an industry that reaches and influences people from all walks of life and this means we can really get our message out there.
GITNB : It’s often thought that going green incurs higher overhead costs. In your case, would you say that replacing some of your existing processes with more sustainable ones saved you money or cost you money?
Will : In some areas we spend a bit more. For example, installing a filtration system for our water or paying a little bit extra for something that’s biodegradable. There are areas where we save a lot too – by using less packaging, or by offering it only on request we actually save buying a lot of things that we just assumed in the past that were par for the course. Overall, I’d say it’s saving us money. There’s a lot of new technology in this space, and like anything new it can often be more expensive when it first comes out – you just need to assess everything on its own merits and decide if it’s the right time for you.
We’re exploring how we can compost our food waste in-house. There’s a market for selling the compost which means there’s an opportunity to turn what would have no residual value (that you pay to dispose of) into generating revenue. That’s just good business!
GITNB : What has been the feedback from your staff in terms of adapting? And your customers?
Will : It’s been really inspiring to see there’s been a huge surge of support from our team and our guests. It’s always a risk challenging the status quo and changing anything, but it’s just been nothing but support all around. Some processes are difficult to change, or require a lot of thinking and planning on how they can be done differently – it’s not easy, but I’ve found there’s just been a collective sense of trying to find a way around every roadblock that we encounter. That helps us keep momentum.
GITNB : What has been the most exciting part of this journey or the actions you’ve taken? And the most challenging?
Will : Personally, it was when we made the announcement to the team about our sustainability journey. I was really nervous at first, but to get such a positive response was awesome. It is a time investment chasing up suppliers, calling meetings and keeping energy high when we may be bogged down. One of the challenging things we’re walking on at the moment is how to separate our waste. Our kitchens and bars weren’t designed to have different bins and we’re really having to search far and wide to find a bespoke solution. Our restaurants have communal recycling bin areas which we find just gets mixed together by others who are careless, influencing them is a challenge but all worth it once we get it right.
GITNB : Any advice for any other green champions on making the change from within (companies)?
Will : Be clear about what sustainability means to you. There’s an overwhelming scope of areas you could start, but be honest about tackling one thing at a time and focus the efforts of the organization on that. Seek help! Green Is The New Black has been invaluable with the amount of time we’ve been able to save connecting dots, helping us find workarounds or sending us new tech or vendors our way. To us, it’s not a race or a single event that gets ‘completed’. In 10 years time, I’m sure we’ll still be trying new things to be a little more sustainable than the year before.