5 Impactful Ways to Make Your Cafe or Restaurant More Sustainable

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?

Over the past year, our customers have become more and more aware of the negative impacts of climate change, and are increasingly using their purchasing decisions to try and 'make a difference'. This increase in ethical and environmental consumerism might just be here to stay, too - Deloitte reports that the market for sustainable and health-conscious products contributed nearly 50% of total consumer products sales growth between 2013 and 2018. 

In the food industry, we try to do our part to keep our ecological impact minimal, but it's incredibly difficult to do so when we require a constant influx of ingredients, stock and supplies.

Many of our cafe and restaurant friends have come up with innovative ways to increase the sustainability of their cafes, like the wonderful Moon Rabbit in Bridge-Darebin, who won the Sustainability Award at the 2019 Darebin Community Awards. Check out some of their sustainability strategies here, or read on for some top tips on making your cafe or restaurant more sustainable. 

reusable coffee cup on an espresso machine

1. Reward customers for bringing a reusable cup

We love HuskeeCup - a sustainable cup made from coffee husk, a by-product of coffee production. But any reusable cup will do - anything to help put a dent in the 16 billion disposable coffee cups that are used once and then thrown away globally every year.  You could offer a discount on every cup, or a loyalty card to get a free coffee after 5 or 10 stamps. Try using an app or an online platform for loyalty stamps too, to save paper. 


vegetarian tacos

2. Increase vegan or vegetarian options on your menu

There's an ongoing war over meat consumption and it's impact on the environment, and while we aren't recommending to switch your menu completely, offering an increase of vegan and vegetarian options can definitely make an impact. The science journal Nature reports that moving to a more plant-based 'flexitarian' diet could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 52%.


reusable shopping bag

3. Try to purchase low-packaging and low environmental impact stock and ingredients

Ask suppliers if they can deliver bulk foods in reusable plastic tubs, or make the choice to purchase toilet roll wrapped in recyclable (and recycled) paper rather than plastic. For your fabric goods, try to purchase organic cotton or bamboo where possible. This fabric is created from a crop grown without harmful agrochemicals. You could also look at alternative paper products that don't use wood pulp - some alternative materials have a lower negative environmental impact. 


coffee roaster moving sack of green coffee

4. Source sustainable coffee from suppliers you can trust

Coffee production, as we all know, is rife with issues of the humanitarian, environmental, and societal kind. While we cannot suggest there is a one-size-fits-all choice when it comes to sourcing sustainable coffee, some of the things you can look for are 

  • Traceability: Where did the coffee come from? Can you trace it back to origin? Can you trust your suppliers?
  • Use of agrochemicals: Was the coffee produced using low or no spray methods? Conventionally grown coffee is one of the most chemically treated foods in the world. 
  • Is it certified by any of the bodies that accredits farms or producers that follow high ethical or environmental standards? Fairtrade, organic, Rainforest Alliance etc. 
  • Do they take coffee bags back for recycling? Most municipal recycling programs can't accept coffee bags, but some suppliers will offer to have these recycled for you. 


digital payments and ordering at a cafe

5. Reduce usage of paper - move to digital menus, receipts and loyalty programs

Many customers are used to QR code menus because of COVID restrictions - but we think this pandemic trend should stay. Not only is it more sanitary, but will save you a lot of paper and menu printing in the long run. You can also offer to email receipts (which might help you build an email marketing list, too) rather than print them, and use a loyalty app or digital offering rather than a traditional stampcard.