From construction to business practices, La Cale is aiming to be zero waste at every step the business takes.

As the pub sets to open Sept. 28, almost everything at the St.-Hubert St. business is second hand or repurposed. They bought glasses, some chairs, a sink, and even their oven from different auctions; other pieces were donated.

They built the booths with their own manpower, and their napkins, all 300 of them, were handmade.

“We re-used the wood that supports the floor to create a bar with it,” said co-owner Josh Gendron. “It’s a nice piece of thick wood. Same thing for the tables, they come from old pallets.”

Gendron said going zero waste isn’t difficult—it’s just an extra effort put into daily tasks.

“You can do so much personally, that really helps, but if you can integrate that into a business, you multiply the effects of it, and then other businesses [will get inspired]," he said. "Even though we’re the first zero-waste pub in Montreal, we certainly hope we won’t be the last. We need to start from the bottom, and rethink and change what we’ve been doing wrong.”

Inspired by zero-waste mogul Bea Johnson, they choose local ingredients and suppliers to eliminate plastic waste—and had to turn away other prospect suppliers because of their packaging.

The economics of going zero-waste

Co-owner Lann Dery admits it might be more costly for their business at the beginning as they practice zero waste, “but not in the long-run,'' she said.

The staff makes their own sodas, juices and tonics instead of buying them already made, and management will need to pay their workers who are doing that extra work.

“I think sometimes it’s cheaper to buy products that are packaged in non-recycled packaging,” Dery said, “but it’s a limitation that we wanted to have.”

She said if they always refuse to buy products that are packaged in plastic, and they start to create an interest from consumers, businesses will “see that the customers want to go to that kind of pub, so they’re going to change their suppliers towards greener ones, and eventually big companies will want to be greener for real, to respond to the demand.”

Once that happens, she expects the prices for greener suppliers to go down.

She also sees the bar's selection of local beers as an opportunity. The bar stocks bigger Quebec brands like Cheval Blanc and St-Ambroise in addition to more niche Quebec breweries on tap.

Reducing food waste

Most of the bar's meals are also vegetarian or vegan to reduce the kitchen's carbon footprint.

Different sized portions catered to customers' tastes allows for less food waste, and reduces the extra charge they would get billed for their scraps.

“It’s not hard to compost. It’s just (that) the city is not offering this service to restaurants in this section in Rosemont,” said Gendron. “What we need to do is hire a private company to pick up our compost every week.”

Gendron said they recycle and compost because it’s unavoidable in the restaurant business. They are still looking into what to do with their glass bottle waste, but one option is to donate the bottles to artists who repurpose them into candles.

“I know it’s a bit hypocritical to open a business if you want to be zero waste,” said Gendron.

He said, however, that what gets him out of bed in the mornings is knowing their business is going to make a difference.