Café Evolve in the main street of Bega, serves coffee and hearty meals, opening up at the cock’s crow most mornings for locals out, about and on the town.
Serving Wild Rye’s locally roasted coffee, using Tilba Milk and an abundance of seasonal produce, the busy café spills over into Candelo Books next door and hums and bustles with town activity and catch ups.
The specials board changes frequently and on closer inspection, you start to notice something taking place on a deeper level. Much of the produce featured comes from the owners’ home garden and nearly everything is made from scratch under the oversight or at the hands of Peter Haggar and Anna Leamon.
On further investigation, I learn that, this duo are far from being satisfied with the long hours, red tape, staff issues, admin, tax reporting, ordering, legislation and general requirements of running a food business, and has decided to develop Café Evolve into a ‘planet friendly’ café as well.
Firm believers in doing their bit to address climate change, Peter and Anna have created a waste cycle, whereby they compost all of the café’s soft papers and napkins, take away coffee cups and lids, food waste, eggshells, and coffee grinds through their chickens, worm farms and garden.
With the rich fertiliser and soil created by their hard-working worms and fowl, they then grow much of their herbs, leaves, fruit, and vegetables for the menu.
The only single-use plastic they currently have in the business is that of the bottled water they sell, which they are working towards removing.
When slated refurbishment takes place later in the year, a water fountain will be installed in the front of the café, and glass bottles available for purchase, and of course re-use by customers.
Admirably, the Evolve team is attempting to convert to ‘stand-alone solar’, and also stop using gas, both are a huge challenge given the temperature requirements for heating and chilling in food businesses.
Peter Haggar’s passion about climate change is why he and his family moved back to the Bega Valley 13 years ago.
“We can make a difference here. It’s easy to be negative given the current political climate, but we can create local pockets of biodiversity and change,” he says.
Not every café in the Bega Valley has the advantage of a working team of chickens, worms and garden beds, however many are reducing their land-fill output where possible.
Joley Vidau, Acting Head of Waste Services at Bega Valley Shire Council explains, “currently our bins are emptied and taken to the Central Waste Facility in Wolumla.”
“This landfill facility was originally designed to last for forty years. At the current fill rate, it won’t last twenty years. This means we need to raise money to create a new facility sooner than we expected, or budgeted for,” she says.
“We have our ‘business brag’ on Mondays which promotes the behaviours we want to see and we’re embarking on a six month trial of FOGO bins for business to tease out any issues.”
The trial is taking place with businesses in Bermagui and includes cafés, such as Eastwood’s Deli & Cooking School, the Gelati Clinic, Boneless Vegetarian, Red Rock Café, Guluga Organics, Bermagui Country Club and others.
Sprout Café in Eden deals with food scraps and coffee grounds by channeling them to local chickens and gardeners.
One of the gardeners returns the favour by providing produce for the café to use. Sprout, like many in the Bega Valley, uses compostable take away cups, brown paper packaging, bamboo utensils, and paper straws – but only if requested.
“And we take our soft plastics up to the bins at Coles Supermarket every day,” says Sprout owner Karen Lott.
“We can all help divert waste from landfill, by sorting and sending it to the right place,” Ms Vidau says.
“We know people do want change, and we’re here to support people.
“Five years ago there was a very different climate. Now the community is better informed and is seeking leadership and looking to Council and now we have the FOGO collection to most local households.
“We will also soon be visiting every business in the Bega Valley to help owners and managers overcome any barriers to waste reduction,” she says.