Did you know that over 5 million tonnes of food end up as landfill in Australia each year; enough to fill 9,000 Olympic sized swimming pools? And every year, we use a total of 3.4 million tonnes of plastics in Australia - and only 320 000 tonnes of that is sent for recycling?
In the food industry, we try to do our part to keep our ecological impact minimal. Many of our cafe and restaurant friends have come up with innovative ways to increase the sustainability of their cafes.
We’d like to introduce you to this month's #FriendsOfPrana, Moon Rabbit.
Little café, big heart! Moon Rabbit is an award-winning, environmentally innovative social-enterprise café from Bridge Darebin. From little things, big things grow. They won the Sustainability Award at the 2019 Darebin Community Awards - check out their story below.
These are some of the things we do at Moon Rabbit to help the environment:
- We don’t have disposable takeaway cups. BYO mug, borrow a pre-loved mug or glass jar from our collection, or purchase a Moon Rabbit reusable cup.
- We don’t offer plastic takeaway containers. All takeaway food is served in paper bags and glass jars (or BYO container), and we serve food and drinks in ceramic plates and cups with proper cutlery to customers who dine in at the café.
- We don’t sell drinks in plastic bottles. All of our cold drinks come in glass bottles and aluminium cans, and customers can refill their own water bottles at Moon Rabbit for free.
- We don’t have disposable carry trays. Cloth carry bags are available for purchase if you need to carry more than one coffee.
- We don’t have plastic drinking straws. Paper straws are available on request.
- We reuse leftover drinking water to water our plants.
- We use worm farms for most of our organic waste; compost juices are added to our herb gardens. Remaining food scraps are composted by members of our community. (Get in touch if you’d like to take some, or visit Sharewaste to register your compost as a community collection site.)
- Our coffee is delivered in large, refillable tins by Padre Coffee, which we return for reuse.
- Our coffee grounds are reused by Croxton School and DIVRS in their community gardens.
- Our bread is delivered in reusable fabric bread bags by Northcote Bakeshop. We use the loaf ends for making staff meals and breadcrumbs, which are available for sale.
- We take reusable containers to Preston Market to purchase our cheese and meat.
- Our fruit and vegetables are delivered in cardboard boxes, which we return to our supplier, and we’re working with them to eliminate any produce arriving in plastic packaging.
- We hand-stamp our loyalty cards and business cards on reused cardboard.
- We wash and air-dry our laundry – tea towels, cleaning cloths and bread bags – on site to conserve energy.”
We shared a (virtual) cup of chai with Moon Rabbit, and asked them a few questions about their business model.
What are some of the challenges you have faced being a social enterprise during COVID19 - how have you had to adapt?
We’re a training café and provide up to 25 hours a week of hands-on, practical training for young, neurodiverse individuals. When COVID-19 struck, our wonderful trainees – who were a third of a way through their 15-week placements – weren’t able to continue the practical element of their course due to physical-distancing regulations (there isn’t much space behind our counter). We hope to be restarting their placements in the coming weeks, as they’re all itching to get behind the coffee machine. We have been able to keep them engaged through online learning four days a week, and recently they’ve been on-site assisting our parent organisation, Bridge Darebin, in a large-scale food-relief operation.
The other challenge (and heartbreaker) was serving our first-ever coffee in a single-use cup on our second birthday. We’d served more than 30,000 coffees without a paper cup and on 16 March that all changed. As much as it went against what we believe in, our priority there and then was keeping our team and our community safe – and keeping our doors open. We kept track of how many single-use cups we used and will be planting trees to offset their impact.
We’ve been overwhelmed by the support of our local community. We’re also warmed by each and every person who has embraced our no-single-use-cup policy during these times and put their trust in us to keep them safe. Thank you!
What are some things that COVID19 has highlighted for you?
What / who inspires you and why?
Our Community provides us with constant inspiration and assurance that together we can create change and better the lives of the people around us while caring for our planet.
STREAT: you just need to look at their impact report to be inspired. Like us they started small, and we hope to be able extend our impact as far as they have in the coming years.
Bitty & Beau’s, USA: this was our CEO Chris Lombardo’s original inspiration for opening Moon Rabbit.
Tell us about the Sustainability Award at the 2019 Darebin Community Awards and a bit about your sustainability initiative.
We were so thrilled to win! We don’t do what we do for the awards, but it’s so nice to have our efforts recognised. Until 16 March we’d never had disposable takeaway cups. It wasn’t something we had to implement after we’d been in business for awhile; Moon Rabbit was born this way. We produce as close to zero waste as possible, with a comprehensive compost system and an emphasis on reducing, refusing, reusing and refilling before recycling, even now in COVID-19 times.
We tailor our menu and specials to the seasons and what’s in surplus, and we aim to create amazing food from every part of the vegetable or fruit (a recent highlight was onion dust made from onion skins, and Alli makes a mean chilli lime salt using dehydrated lime zest). We aim to inspire our suppliers, like Prana Chai, or change suppliers if necessary, to help limit operational waste. We weigh and record our waste every day so we can continually learn and improve.
Any advice for other cafes to run more sustainably?
When it comes to coffee cups, weigh up your options and speak to your people. Make sure your team feels confident and comfortable before you make changes, and use clear signage to educate your customers.
Speak to your suppliers, too! There is always a good chance that by simply asking ‘Can it be done differently?’, they might be open to suppling their product to you in reusable packaging. We asked Prana Chai this question last year, and now our chai is delivered in reusable buckets (formerly cheese buckets) so there is no packaging waste in this supply-chain relationship. Hooray!
We love Northcote Bakeshop – just a few kilometres down the road and our main supplier of bread and pastries. Community and environment are at the heart of their business, too.
Your favourite cafe (other than the Moon Rabbit!)
Finish these sentences:
Prana Chai is SO GREAT for supplying all of our chai in reusable containers.
We can't wait to have our space full of people again.
Everyone should be kind to each other.
What are some ways you try to minimise the environmental impact of our industry? We’d love to share your initiatives, too. Get in touch!