How to make your cafe more sustainable


Veneziano Coffee Roasters’ sustainability team share their easy wins for café owners looking to make their businesses greener.

In the past five years, Melbourne coffee roaster Veneziano has upped its sustainability game and made huge changes to the business to reduce its impact on the planet.

The dedicated team at Veneziano, and its parent company Nomad Coffee Group, have made great strides in their mission, implementing eco-focussed initiatives across the company to gain both B Corp and Carbon Neutral certifications and cut the carbon emissions of its operations by around 50 per cent.

While the team’s ambitions to make the roaster as planet positive as possible continue – certifications must be maintained, and new targets achieved – their attention has also turned to their café partners, and how Veneziano can share its learnings to help cultivate a more sustainable coffee culture in Australia.

“Climate change is a big concern for a business like ours. Coffee is a high at-risk crop, with forecasts predicting around 50 per cent of current coffee arable land not being suitable by 2050,” says Nick Percy, Group Sustainability Manager of Nomad Coffee Group.

“The stuff we control is the most straightforward to adjust, and we’ve seen huge reductions in the carbon intensity of our products. However, we know we can go further and that includes sharing our knowledge with our café partners to help make positive changes.”

That knowledge has been garnered from real-world experiences. In 2018, Veneziano opened a café in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond as a place for people to enjoy its locally roasted coffee. However, the team also had a second purpose for the venue: to be a benchmark café experience where they can road-test products, equipment, and ideas before offering them to their wholesale network.

This includes sustainable initiatives, and over the past six years the sustainability team have trialled a range of green practices at the café – from reusable cup schemes to diverting organic waste from landfill.

Nomad Coffee Group Customer Experience Manager Kate Maher was on the ground in Richmond overseeing these initiatives for four years, and says they have plenty to share with their wholesale partners.

Nomad Coffee Group Sustainability Manager Nick Percy and Nomad Coffee Group Customer Experience Manager Kate Maher. Image: Veneziano Coffee Roasters

“One of the hardest things about implementing green initiatives can be adjusting consumer behaviour,” says Kate.

“Our society is based on things being quick and convenient. Introducing sustainable options often results in customers having to alter their usual routine. If you want to start changing people’s behaviour, you have to find the path with the least resistance.”

Communication is a key factor here. Kate says it’s important for all your team to be on the same page about the messaging of new practices, such as persuading customers to make use of a single-use cup recycling scheme.

“Education is a big part of this; for example, a lot of people still think all single-use cups are co-mingle recyclable. However, it’s got to be a positive conversation, you can’t shame someone for their actions or choices. Choose the right audience and build on your already-established relationships with long-term customers,” says Kate.

It’s often assumed sustainable swaps are more expensive for business owners, but Nick and Kate are confident some practices will actually save café owners money, such as reducing energy consumption and reviewing waste management.

“If you can’t afford to switch to green energy, take the time to review your energy usage and see which items could be switched off or used for less time,” says Nick.

“In terms of waste, disincentives such as levies on general waste often make collection expensive, so it’s worth reviewing what is being recycled and composted to reduce costs and divert waste from landfill. You can lower your bill purely by utilising your bins better.”

Kate adds that reviewing portion sizes can drastically reduce food waste, which will not only decrease the amount to be collected but also cuts produce costs. That might not necessarily involve making everything smaller, but giving customers options such as whether they want that second slice of toast, or one poached egg instead of two.

Due to the current economic climate, a lot of consumers are looking for ways to cut costs. Kate says customers are seeking out ways to save money, so offering discounts for using a reusable for coffee or food is a great way to encourage sustainable behaviours.

Over the past few years, Veneziano has worked in collaboration with several of its wholesale partners to introduce Simply Cup recycle streams at cafés across the country in a bid to reduce single-use waste. To date, the roaster has helped to recycle over 50,000 single-use coffee cups.

Madera Northcote in Melbourne is one such café. When Owner Pete Widdows established a coffee bar within his brother’s carpentry shop in 2021, sustainability was already at the heart of the business that made custom furniture from upcycled wood (‘Madera’ translates to ‘wood’ in Spanish). Looking for a roasting partner to supply the café, Veneziano was the clear choice for Pete.

“From my first conversation with the team at Veneziano I knew they were going to be as helpful as possible,” says Pete.

“I wanted to work with a roaster that put sustainability at the forefront, and Veneziano’s resources have helped Madera to achieve its own sustainability goals. If I have an idea or need advice on something, they’ve always got sound knowledge.”

The coffee shop is located just across the creek from CERES community environment park, so the local community is very supportive of Pete’s eco initiatives. As it opened during lockdown, at first it had to use single-use takeaway cups, but Pete approached the team at Veneziano for a solution that would align with Madera’s values.

“I told them I wanted to keep buying compostable cups from them, but we needed to find a way to dispose of them properly,” says Pete.

Veneziano helped Pete and team find the answer, which was adopting the Simply Cup scheme that provides a recycling station for both standard and compostable disposable coffee cups. Once the cups are collected, they’re used to make eco products such as environmentally friendly asphalt and concrete.

“In order to introduce these sustainable changes, we needed to raise the prices but didn’t want to pass on the additional costs to everyone that drank coffee – whether they used a reusable cup or not. We came up with the idea to add a 50c surcharge for each single-use cup,” he says.

“It’s worked amazing well. The local community have wholly embraced it and lots of customers have switched to reusables. In the past year, we’ve ordered far fewer compostable cups despite being significantly busier.”

Nick and Kate say Veneziano is committed to continue working alongside its café partners to find bespoke sustainable solutions for their setups, and believe that doing good for others only benefits business.

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This article appears in the June 2024 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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