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Melbourne is emerging as a sustainable city. Many of its innovative businesses have already discovered new ways to lower waste, reduce plastic use and give preloved goods a second life. Now, it’s spilling over to its renowned foodie scene, with veg-forward dining options, ethically sourced seafood, and food waste initiatives now a part of the landscape.
Discover a new side of the city and use our guide to curate your own low-waste day out in Melbourne.
Created in 2012 in the backstreets of Collingwood, this cafe was built with an emphasis on community and hospitality. It sits inside a large warehouse with soaring five-metre-tall ceilings and indoor and outdoor seating—exuding industrial decor.
At its core, the South of Johnston promotes locally grown produce. It has its own lush herb gardens and orchards, which are open to the neighbours to use. The walls are laden with works from local artists, and dogs are welcome all the time.
There’s a sense of community here. The cafe installed 40 solar panels on the roof in 2015, generating 60% of its electricity. It’s also involved in intensive recycling schemes, free trade coffee, recycled papers and plastics, ongoing community assistance and engagement, donating to Peacemeals, the lord mayors fund and local schools.
As for dining, the brunch menu is packed with fresh, locally sourced ingredients crafted into salads, sandwiches, fritters, and much more. You can sit down, have a glass of wine or sip on a cocktail and enjoy the atmosphere.
Sustainability has been embedded in Japanese culture since the Edo period when resources were scarce. This is also the era Nori was born when paper-making was introduced, and nori paste was turned into nori sheets. At Ima, the philosophy is simple: ‘nose to tail’ dining. This means nothing goes to waste. Everything can be transformed or used in some way, such as Bonito flakes left over from dashi stock are dehydrated and repurposed into furikake seasoning. Coffee grounds are turned into compost by the local company Reground, and cooking oil is recycled by Green Life Oil.
On the menu, expect classic Japanese fare such as panko-crumbed prawn burger, baked eggs in tomato sugo, and avocado toast with nori paste. Even the dishes they’re served in are locally made. The trays are made of offcuts from the timber service counter.
After you’ve climbed the Curtin House stairs, tacos are waiting for you and a daunting tequila list, but that’s a good thing. Mesa Verde is a Mexican restaurant combining authenticity with originality. The menu extends beyond tacos, offering chicken quesadillas, rib-eye bathed in chimichurri, and Mexican doughnuts topped with salted espresso dulce de leche and whipped sour cream for dessert. Although, if you’re sitting down for food, the tacos are legendary and are stuffed with everything from oxe tongue to fried green tomatoes.
Mesa Verde is also fighting for sustainability, one straw at a time, using metal straws instead of plastic. You will also find some wriggly worms on the rooftop, making use of food waste and then using the fertiliser for their home-grown herbs.
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