A Community of Companies Working Towards a Sustainable, Resilient Future
This community of companies is doing seriously impressive work in so many areas, showing how sustainable living can be achieved and incorporated into our homes and businesses.
We got to spend a recent Saturday morning at Cirrus Fine Coffee’s headquarters learning about all the big and little things they’re doing for this planet, along with Biofilta urban farms, Australian Ecosystems and The Cape.
We sat down with Brendan Condon, director of Cirrus Fine Coffee, Biofilta, and Australian Ecosystems, and Jeremy Boxall, general manager of Cirrus Fine Coffee, and over some coffees (of course) we had our minds blown over how everything is thought of to ensure these businesses’ sustainability and how they hope to improve the state of the earth.
Brendan is one of those people you meet who are so passionate about finding sustainable solutions and who is doing all he can to bring his ideas to fruition, it gives you hope for the future.
He has founded a number of companies, all of which “work to assist communities, businesses and government build a more sustainable, light footprint, carbon neutral, regenerative, resilient future”.
Cirrus Fine Coffee’s Sustainability and Zero Waste Initiatives
An overarching aim of Cirrus Fine Coffee is to lift sustainability standards in the coffee industry. The company, which roasts its speciality coffee beans in Port Melbourne, is working towards being zero waste and is already doing an amazing job.
In terms of being zero waste, a few things Cirrus Fine Coffee is doing, which other businesses should take note of and implement if possible, are:
using compostable packaging for its coffee beans,
taking responsibility for its packaging by collecting it from the cafes it supplies and taking it to a commercial composter for composting,
composting the used coffee grounds and chaff it creates during the roasting process,
helping its customers to compost their used coffee grounds as well via Reground, and
reusing the cardboard boxes it uses for deliveries as many times as possible and incentivising cafes that reuse them to make sure they are being reused (the boxes have a sticker on them with the text, “this box has been repurposed” and tick boxes for each time it is reused).
Biofilta and Cirrus Fine Coffee
Pop-up Urban Farm Experiment
Cirrus Fine Coffee believes that cities can become prolific food producers by combining organics like coffee grounds, surplus rain water, under-utilised city spaces, and clever food growing systems, like those made by its sister company, Biofilta.
Biofilta aims to make urban farming easy through wicking garden systems (made from recycled plastic) that improve the water efficiency of urban agriculture, minimise labour requirements and make food growing accessible to all city dwellers. The company also builds stormwater harvesting systems so that, together, its products can make cities more water and food secure and closed loop.
To show how well urban farming can work, a pop-up farm experiment is currently being run at the headquarters of these businesses in two parking spaces (which are no longer needed as cycling to work is encouraged). They are attempting to produce the annual fresh produce requirements of an adult - 150kg - in each of these two car spaces, which have been taken over by Biofilta wicking beds.
All food produced in the Biofilta wicking beds is weighed, recorded, and photographed to track the experiment’s outcomes - with 60% of the target already being met in 4 months! This shows the massive impact urban farming could have on where we get our food from in the future and how efficient these farms can be.
The plants are being kept super happy with compost that includes fertiliser from South Melbourne Market’s Gaia machine and coffee grounds (when composted, coffee can be a highly valuable source of nutrition for a garden!) and chaff from Cirrus Fine Coffee’s roasting process.
Brendan notes that the food garden has also been an excellent team building exercise for everyone in the office.
Athol Road Primary School Urban Farm
Another incredible project that Cirrus Fine Coffee and Biofilta are working on, together with Reground, which recycles used coffee grounds, putting it to good use in community gardens and home gardens, was building an urban farm at Athol Road Primary School.
Using wicking beds and compost containing coffee grounds, the school has been producing amazing produce and providing the great model for closed loop living.
We think teaching children how to grow food and how to compost is critical for the future good of the planet and for them to be more resilient and have more fulfilled lives that are more connected with our natural world.
More about it and the pop-up farm experiment in this video:
Restoring Natural Habitats via Australian Ecosystems
Protecting, restoring and maintaining biodiversity and habitats in our cities, as well as restoring wetlands to filter stormwater to protect our rivers, creeks, waterways and marine environments, is what Brendan striving to do with Australian Ecosystems.
Seeds from wild indigenous plants are harvested to be grown in its nursery. The company has grown and planted 35 000 000 plants since 1997, with several million plants produced per annum. These plants comprise 400 native and indigenous species, which are used in landscaping projects like Mullum Creek, Gum Scrub Creek, Galvin Park, and Mitchell’s Run.
Australian Ecosystems also specialises in the revegetation and maintenance of constructed wetland systems and its work promotes the restoration of diminishing ecosystems and provides a habitat for threatened species, such as the Leadbeater's possum and the Helmeted Honeyeater.
All Coming Together at The Cape
All of these initiatives come together in The Cape - Australia’s first net zero carbon community operating on clean energy, with passive solar homes, community gardens, habitat restoration, rainwater harvesting and restoration of biodiversity. Pretty much, it is how we all should be living! And how we hopefully all will be living one day.
The Cape has 10 000 litres of rainwater storage, the houses are built and fit out to be energy efficient, and it is gas free, with the gas replaced being with efficient all-electric heating, cooling, hot water systems and induction cooktops.
It is achieving $100 to $500 per annum energy bills (all energy sources) compared to the $3 000 to $3 500 national average for a conventional home in Australia, with many homes getting negative bills as the homes are generating four to five times what they are using. This excess energy is going to be used to power electric vehicles.
Brendan and all his companies and employees are doing seriously impressive work in so many areas, showing how sustainable living can be achieved and incorporated into our homes and businesses. Seeing one person obtaining such reach and doing so much good was truly inspiring!