Here at Black Sheep, we pride ourselves on the quality of our product, our ethics in sourcing it, and on being genuine people. We’ve always been conscious of our impact on the environment, but the airing of ABC’s War on Waste really opened our eyes to the problem we’re causing in the community. We kept thinking, how can we go about making it better?

Lately, we’ve managed to take some really big steps and we wanted to tell you about them.

Just a few weeks ago, we had a super exciting moment involving a wheelie bin. You see, most weeks we've put four overflowing wheelie bins out for collection. It even got to a point where we were going to have to speak to our landlord about getting more. Anyway, over the last five weeks, we’ve been whittling away and we got down to where we only had one, half-full bin.

And then, the following week, Renee went to put the bins out and there was a single cup in there. One cup! From four overflowing bins each week, to not even filling one. We’re not sure anyone has ever been happier about a bin.

So here’s how we’ve cut down our waste.

At the end of 2016, we started outsourcing all our organics with Mallow Sustainability. Jess and her team provide a food waste collection service to businesses looking to reduce the environmental impact of their waste disposal. They collect our organic waste twice a week. That covers things like coffee grinds, paper cups, food waste, and napkins. All of it is taken to a farm out in Ipswich where it’s composted and worm-farmed.

Jess also helped us organise a recycling service. For some reason we found it quite difficult to get a recycling service set up in a commercial area, but with Jess’s help, we now use a company called Toxfree. They empty our four recycle wheelie bins once a week.

Our staff collect all the soft plastics and take them to the supermarket to be recycled.

It’s easy to see how drastically these things cut down the amount of stuff that ends up in the normal wheelie bin.

We use cloth towels in the bathroom. They’re washed and reused. Our toilet paper is Who Gives a Crap. It’s 100 per cent forest friendly and they donate 50 per cent of profits to help build toilets for those in need. (Did you know more people in the world have mobile phones than toilets? That’s crazy!) We use Thankyou hand wash and lotion in the bathroom too. Everything from their body care range helps get water and sanitation services to people in need.

You might have spied our big, white coffee tins on the shelf? Previously, we were buying foil-lined plastic bags and bagging up coffee for ourselves here in the shop. We’d open a bag, use the contents, and possibly recycle the bag once or twice. After that, sadly, it would end up in landfill. So we bought the tins! Now the roasted coffee goes straight into the tin and we can use it again and again (and again and again and again).

And don’t worry; the hessian sacks the green beans come in aren’t going to waste either. Our customers use them for weed matting and dog beds.

Right now we’re looking further into packaging options. We’re working on an option for customers to be able to bring the packaging back and refill it (some customers are already doing that with our current packaging). We’re also researching carbon neutral courier companies for all our online orders.

Want to know how you can help?

We’ve started stocking frank green reusable cups. They’re a really good quality BPA free and they don’t leak! They’re designed and made in Melbourne and they also do a water bottle. It comes with a special code you can plug into an app to calculate how many litres of water you drink a day, how many bottles you’ve diverted from landfill, and the dollar amount you’ve saved by not buying water.

To encourage our customers to ditch the disposables (even though ours are compostable) and bring their own reusable cups along, we offer a flat rate discount. We welcome any kind of reusable cup, even if its your favourite vintage china teacup!  Last month at Rocklea, we had the highest amount of BYO cups we’ve ever seen. The community awareness is fantastic.

Oh! We’ve also switched from plastic teaspoons to sustainable bamboo stirrers. Because every little bit helps, right?