Make Your Meal Count

Free-range, locally sourced and organic ingredients are now regularly seen in Auckland’s cafes and restaurants, as are ubiquitous glass jars and pallet furniture.

Scarecrow in Victoria St. Picture / Babiche Martens.

Keep more than a cup

Keep cups and even reusable drink bottles have been embraced by consumers, but less people think about their takeaway lunch packaging. Taking your own lunchbox or container is the next step (many places accept these), or eating in where possible — especially at places that use crockery rather than takeaway containers.

Reusing and refilling beer bottles and flagons is an age-old tradition — dedicated places like Brothers Beer make this easy for craft beer enthusiasts, while swappa crates are back at No.1 Queen St and Burger Burger. Though rather than swapping these traditionally, both spots use the bottles in light fittings and offer them to their home-brewing customers.

No.1 Queen St also has a home-brew club and refillable beer delivery service, and they offer a Danish pastry to every customer who returns a used iced coffee container. The glass bottles used for The Squeezery juices and smoothies from the three Little Bird Unbakery locations can be returned for reuse, with a $1 incentive. Reducing the need for glass bottles, Hip Group establishments such as Ortolana have sparkling water on tap while Grey Lynn’s Freida Margolis uses its own SodaStream.

Subtle diet tweaks

You don’t need to become a vegan, but rethinking the need for meat at every meal will have a big impact on the environment. Paul, Stella and Mary McCartney front Meat Free Mondays in the UK, which encourages less animal-based consumption. The New Zealand movement is supported by the likes of Revive Cafe’s Jeremy Wilson (whose cafes and books have been so successful he is now hosting a US cooking show).

Kokako is another vegetarian fair trade focused cafe while Hector’s Restaurant at the Heritage Auckland offers a complete vegan menu. If you are eating meat, eat the whole animal — Phil’s Kitchen buys whole lambs and cooks every part, while places like Peach Pit and Orphan’s Kitchen use cheaper, less desirable cuts in interesting ways. Depot’s Al Brown is an advocate of more sustainable fish choices, rather than always opting for snapper, to help our overfished oceans.

Good for me and you

With the popularity of superfoods, which are often grown in developing nations (think chia seeds, coconut oil and quinoa), questioning the sustainability and origin of these foods is important. A lot of coffee and a fair bit of chocolate is fairly traded now, but other products have been slower to catch up. You can buy spices, sugar, coconut milk, rice and more at Trade Aid.

All Good Organics, which produces beverages and imports bananas, was labelled the fairest trader in the world at last year’s International Fairtrade Awards, while Wellington Chocolate Factory also takes sustaining and supporting the communities it buys its sugar and cocoa from seriously. Maiden South Pacific offers Samoan coconut oil and breadfruit flour bought through a shared value system which is even better than fair trade — Deco Eatery uses their gluten-free flour in its baked goods.

Waste not, want not

Waste is a big issue in hospitality, but composting and reducing packaging is on the up. Cafes like Scullery set an example with their goal of zero-waste, achieved through composting, recycling and minimal packaging. Businesses including Burger Burger recycle their oil through Cookright, which uses it for bio fuel, while others — including Federal & Wolfe, The Lucky Taco, Merediths and Sip Kitchen — compost their ingredients through We Compost.

Mairangi Bay’s Lalele Organics and Albany’s Black & Gold feed their food scraps to the chickens on their small farm, while Scarecrow (pictured) composts, also looking towards zero-waste. They pickle bruised fruit and vegetables or use them in sauces to avoid wasting them. The “ugly food” movement is growing overseas, with shops selling misshapen produce, or supermarkets offering these goods at discounted prices. Fair Food is an Auckland food rescue service that collects food waste from growers and retailers and redistributes it to community groups, social and educational agencies and charities.

Good packaging

When takeaway containers have to be used, more businesses are opting for biodegradable packaging. Innocent Packaging makes stylish plant-based cups, cutlery, plates and more that are fully compostable. It also works with We Compost to implement zero-waste solutions for cafes. Friendlypak also offers cups and plates as well as biodegradable cling film, gloves and resealable bags, while the Honest Coffee Company distributes compostable coffee pods made primarily from plant fibres.

Your go-to guide

To help you navigate the conscious dining world, download the Conscious Consumers app. It’s a great resource for finding cafes, bars, restaurants and more that adhere to the criteria mentioned here. Information on the use of eco-cleaners is also available, as is how a business supports the community.

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New Zealand Herald

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