Five minutes with….Seven Seeds

6 May 2011

Carlton caffeine dealers Seven Seeds have fast become one of the jewels in Melbourne’s impressive  café crown. Apart from an enviable reputation for a brewing a great coffee, owners Mark Dundon and Bridget Amor are also committed to maintaining an educational and sustainable space for their customers to enjoy their fix.

Teaming up with Breathe Architects ensured this one time city warehouse was converted as sustainably as possible, within a budget. The design caught the eye of the Victorian Institute of Architects, who recently honoured the eco-space with their annual sustainable design award. 

We recently caught up with the pair to chat about all things coffee, sustainability and an honest approach to business…

Carbon Column: Coffee plants, bikes as art and rainwater tanks- what a great space! Talk us through some of the main features.

Seven Seeds: Well, the indoor bike racks have actually created the most hype amongst customers so that’s probably the main standout- it’s considered as a design feature! It’s convenient, safe and 99% of our staff rides to work, so it encourages them to get involved. The see-through rainwater tanks help us to collect water from the saw tooth roof, and the coffee plants also help to make the connection between coffee and our environment.

It would have been great to have solar panels and windmills on the roof, but it wasn’t financially available to us. We have worked within a budget and we’ve done what was possible within that. A lot of the things we’ve done are obvious and they just make sense.

CC: What was the motivation behind creating this environment for your business?

SS: The motivations haven’t come from a financial point of view, for us it was a commitment to do our bit. The core of it all for us is education- which has influenced the layout and design of the space. People often take the growing and production process of coffee for granted. We wanted to have the coffee plants inside to show people that it’s a natural, but hard to grow product. Looking at that from an educational point of view, it just followed that there needed to be some environmental credentials.

I think the environmental design of the space does make a difference. It helps to create warmth and friendliness. It communicates a decent approach to the future. I think most of the people who come in here definitely have a very similar philosophy to us; if you’re going to run your businesses you should try incorporate as many sustainable elements as you can. All of our staff are also quite interested in sustainability, particularly recycling our milk cartons and what we can do with coffee waste.

CC: Why does sustainability matter for Seven Seeds?

The industry where coffee is grown is so susceptible to climate change, so for us it’s quite important to do the most that we can to reduce our impact on the environment. It’s important to us to ensure the future of the grower, and they are quite worried about the effect of climate change. That was really precedent in our decision to be more sustainable. We’re not involved in this to be part of any club or wear the green badge, we want to be true to ourselves and reward the farmer for the great job they are doing. It’s great to have that personal relationship, and return year after year to see how they’ve improved, and how we’ve enabled them to exist.  We don’t want to lose a growing region because of farmers not getting enough money and having to sell their land. It’s similar in a way to wine growing areas also, because different soil produces different tastes, we don’t want to lose that.

CC: Have you noticed a growing interest in sustainability, particularly with fairtrade products, amongst your customer base?

SS: There’s definitely a demand from consumers, you certainly gain a degree of respect as well. Melbourne’s ahead of it’s time, everyone wants to know more about where their products are coming from. People who are connected with growers and produces really do want to incorporate that green element to what they do, it just makes sense. When you’re working in an office, you perhaps don’t have such an awareness of how things are changing and can affect the livelihoods of people who are on the land. Our coffee farmers notice changed rain patterns and when the abnormal flowering makes picking difficult. Whereas, if you are coming into Carlton, Melbourne, to pick up a coffee and go back to your office, you may not notice that it’s that half a degree warmer this month, or it’s rained more or less.

CC: Finally, what are your top tips for businesses wanting to get involved in sustainability?

SS: Be realistic. Try and do as much as you possibly can, but know that there are some things might not be financially viable until later down the track. It doesn’t have to be massive; you just have to have an honest approach and look at the whole process for opportunities to be more sustainable.

To find more information on the simple sustainability actions your business can take to start reducing your impact on the environment, visit http://www.whatcanidorightnow.com.au

 

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