MICE reaffirms its commitment to sustainability

MICE sustainable

As part of its commitment to championing sustainability, each year MICE partners with companies that are inspiring and implementing change. In 2024, MICE is working with Reground and Huskee to make the coffee industry greener, one cup at a time.

Sustainability is becoming an increasingly important part of business. When it comes to deciding where to spend their money, many consumers consider the environmental impact of a product, including its cost and convenience. As a result, a rising number of café owners are making their setups more sustainable – with the help of innovative businesses offering game-changing products and initiatives.

One business owner who has banged the sustainable drum since she entered the coffee industry is Jo Gibbons, owner of Taste the Yorke in South Australia’s Copper Coast. In 2016, Jo established the café with an eco ethos at its core, priding the business on being regional, seasonal, and local.

“We’re a small café in a small agricultural town, so supporting the community and the local environment has always been an essential part of the plan,” says Jo.

“When I first moved to South Australia, I couldn’t believe there was no green waste collection in my area. I was so frustrated that food waste was going into landfill, so I started thinking about what I could do and my interest in sustainability snowballed from there.”

Over the years, Jo has worked with the local council to establish multiple new green initiatives in the Copper Coast. From introducing a Food Organics, Garden Organics (FOGO) waste service that offers compostable- packaging disposal, to securing a financial support program for businesses that want to implement a cup- swap scheme, she not only strives to make her own café more sustainable but also the wider community.

“All of these elements work towards our sustainability pledge, which aims to support our local environment and create a sustainable future,” Jo says.

Alongside the multiple sustainable practices Jo has adopted at Taste the Yorke – which include donating used coffee grounds to farmers, feeding food scraps to local chooks, and adopting a milk keg system – one of her most successful initiatives has been introducing the HuskeeSwap exchange system.

According to reusable coffee cup company Huskee, 90 per cent of disposable cups aren’t recyclable, leading to 60,000 kilograms of additional landfill waste in Australia each year. HuskeeSwap aims to eliminate single-use cups by pairing with cafés to offer a cup-exchange system.

“We love it,” says Jo. “Our customers have been hugely receptive: we have truckies and farmers pulling up in their utes with HuskeeCups. It saves money too. Not buying single-use cups saves us around $600 each week.”

Another café owner that’s embraced the HuskeeSwap scheme is Lenka Kriz of Cat & Cow Café in Randwick, New South Wales. When she launched the zero-waste café in 2019 with her husband Jacob, their aim was to show people how they could limit their own daily waste.

“We started out with a strictly no single-use cups policy, which encouraged customers to bring their own or borrow from the cup library, but COVID-19 meant we had to introduce compostable takeaway cups,” says Lenka.

“However, it’s so hard to compost compostable cups properly. The local council stopped accepting them as part of its compost service last year as the takeaway cups were outnumbering the food waste.”

Since the pandemic, Lenka has tried to encourage her customers to adopt the HuskeeSwap scheme.

“I actually ordered HuskeeCups before we even found a site for the café. We use them for both takeaway drinks and in-house orders,” she says.

“We were one of the first cafés in Australia to adopt the scheme and it has worked brilliantly with online orders. There’s still some work to go, but I’d say around 20 per cent of our takeaway customers use the HuskeeSwap scheme.”

Despite the challenges it faced during COVID-19, Cat & Cow Café still strives to create as little waste as possible. The team are trained on how they can reduce rubbish, and Lenka chooses to work with local, sustainable suppliers to keep the café’s carbon footprint as small as possible.

“Our values have not changed, but we’ve accepted we can’t do everything,” says Lenka. “A lot of business owners fear going green is going to be more work, but in fact it’s really rewarding and can be a great marketing tool.”

One of the biggest waste products in the average café is ground coffee. Busy cafés can be left with hundreds of kilograms of spent coffee each week, over 95 percent of which ends up in landfill in Australia. In landfill, organic waste like coffee produces huge amounts of methane (a greenhouse gas that’s more than 28 times more harmful as CO2) as it breaks down.

However, a circular recycling initiative from Reground is diverting used coffee to communities across Victoria. The social enterprise donates the grounds to gardeners, schools, and community gardens across the state for free to be used as compost to help replenish soil and grow healthy food for local neighbourhoods.

Loafer Bread in Melbourne’s Fitzroy North was one of the first venues to adopt the scheme when it was launched. Former employee Ninna Larsen left her role as a barista at the bakery to setup Reground in 2014, and her parting gift to owner Andrea Brabazon was signing up the business to the scheme.

“Watching Reground grow has been amazing,” says Andrea. “It’s completely streamlined our waste system and has cut our green waste from three collections per week to two.”

The Reground team collect Loafer Bread’s spent ground coffee from a specially designed bin that’s filled directly from the café’s knock box. The social enterprise also collects soft plastics, which Andrea has found particularly helpful.

“Reducing the amount of waste the bakery and café produces has been part of the business since it was established 20 years ago. We focus on using organic ingredients and aim to cut waste wherever we can – from adopting a milk keg system to eschewing single-use cups,” says Andrea.

Another Victorian business that’s embraced Reground’s circular initiative is Tyler’s Milk Bar in Preston. When founders and sisters Sam and Alli Fisher set up their community café and milk bar in 2021, they knew from day one that they wanted to run a business that was as sustainable as possible.

“We wanted to create something that enhanced our local community,” says Sam. “Our focus is on sharing good coffee and humble food, and creating a fun and playful place for local people to meet and relax.”

Sam and Alli heard about Reground from their roasting partner, and started working with Ninna and the team from their opening day.

“The Reground system is so easy, we almost don’t even notice it,” says Alli. “They collect our soft plastics as well, which takes a little more effort as we have to make sure they’re clean, but we get a really useful contamination report to ensure we’re doing everything we can to make sure they’re getting recycled.”

The program has inspired the Tyler’s Milk Bar team to adopt more a circular system in the café. Excess steamed milk is diverted to the kitchen to be turned into cakes and desserts, while any food waste is composted to use in the café’s garden.

It’s not just cafés that Reground partners with. The company worked closely with roastery Single O to develop a stewardship scheme in which roasters pay for their wholesale café partners’ coffee grounds to be put to good use via Reground.

The joint project was borne out of a carbon report Single O commissioned to assess the sustainability of the business in 2022. From the findings, Mike and team were shocked to discover that 22 per cent of the roaster’s carbon impact was actually related to customer disposal of spent coffee grounds.

“Sustainability is incredibly important to our business,” says Single O CEO Mike Brabant. “We thought the sum would be big, but we were blown away by the figure. We knew we had to do something about it, so working with Reground was a no brainer.”

After implementing their own changes, it can be a challenge, resource wise, for café owners to take the next steps to make their operations even more sustainable. Mike says this is something that often comes up in conversation with Single O’s wholesale customers, and the hope is that this new service with Reground will be part of the solution they can offer.

“We spend a lot of time sourcing fairly, so I also think as roasting partners we should spend time supporting our customers to dispose of products fairly,” he says.

“As part of our wholesale offering, any café in Victoria that partners with Single O automatically has its grounds picked up by Reground. I think we’re the first roaster in the state to offer that service and it’s working really well.”

To date, through the initiative Single O has diverted 19,445 kilograms of ground coffee from landfill – avoiding 36,827 kilograms of methane emissions.

Single O will join Reground at MICE2024 to launch the new Circular Coffee scheme. You can find out more about it by visiting the Reground stand at D23 and reground.com.au. To find out more about the HuskeeSwap scheme, visit huskee.co/swap/.

This article appears in the 2024 MICE Showguide. Read more HERE.

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