An article from the Twizel Update, Issue 753
Small businesses have every opportunity to enact big change. This is something Troy Sheridan, owner of Shawty’s Café and Ministry of Works (MOW) Bar and Eatery in Twizel, knows a thing or two about. Along with MOW’s manager Claire Whitfield and the rest of the Shawty’s/MOW team, the thriving hospitality business is doing its bit to improve the environment.
With an impressive array of KeepCups on display and available for purchase, and the newly installed hanging plant baskets, you get a feel for the café’s environmental consciousness as soon as you walk in the door. Order takeaway food off their menu or from their daily cabinet, and a friendly staff member will hand over your meal in a biodegradable container with accom-panying cutlery from Innocent Packaging. Not only this, but your takeaway coffee will also be served up in a biodegradable cup. Once you’re done, you can throw it away knowing that Mother Nature will be only too happy to take care of it for you and turn it into nutrients for the soil.
You’ve probably also noticed the bags of coffee grounds placed outside the cafe throughout the day, with a sign encouraging passers-by to take the leftovers home to feed their gardens. Claire said she’s started to notice a few regulars who stop by to collect the grounds after hours. Other food scraps from both sides of the business also get collected for local pigs and chickens (sometimes in exchange for free-range eggs), so nothing goes to waste.
Once the doors close and the staff start cleaning, they use ENJO products designed to cut out the need for chemicals that then pollute waterways. ENJO cloths are made using specially designed fibres that, once combined with water, enable a thorough and chemical-free clean.
According to Troy, running an environmentally sustainable business makes sense, both from a financial point of view and an environmental one. “A lot of people do this stuff because it’s just really practical,” he said. "Ordering too much stock and then just leaving it to sit on the shelf is a waste of money, for example, so we try to repurpose as many ingredients as possible to reduce the amount of waste. It comes down to the little things, even, like making sure staff are explaining menu items properly so customers aren't getting things they don’t want that we then have to throw away,” he said.
A few years ago, Troy developed a waste management policy for the business that covers everything from day-to-day waste management, to more managerial responsibilities such as menu design. The policy looks at things like portion control and monitoring the popularity of dishes to reduce food waste, and encourages staff to think differently about the things they’re throwing away so they can be a part of the process and the solution. "It's not just rubbish that goes into a bag and gets forgotten about,” he said. Claire added that the staff are all environmentally conscious in their personal lives and they bring that awareness to work on a daily basis, so it’s all business as usual for the team.
Environmental sustainability in a small town isn’t without its challenges, though. "Growing things in Twizel is challenging, and sometimes it just makes more economic sense to use goods grown in a commercial environment," Troy said. It's hard to argue with that logic, from a business owner’s point of view. “At the end of the day, you can try to grow things here, but there aren’t any local processing plants, so it still has to travel to somewhere like Timaru before we can use it for our menu items,” he said. Troy has looked into more environmentally friendly ways of sourcing quality ingredients, but so far, the logistics aren’t in his favour.
“Being environmentally sustainable isn’t always the most financially viable option, but it's important to do your best to find a balance," he added. Despite all this, Shawty's and MOW Bar continue to do what they can for the environment. Claire hopes their actions are inspiring their customers to think more about their environmental impact.
“If we’re talking about it and showing our commitment to our customers, then the message spreads and makes people think twice about their choices,” she said. “If people can see that we’re doing all we can, it inspires them to make a change on a personal level.”
Troy hopes to be a part of the environmental solution and wants to feel as though his businesses are making a difference towards environmental sustainability. "We want to keep the world a good place,” he said. Troy encourages other hospitality businesses to take a look at what their peers are doing and just make a start.