Providing a sustainable food service is a major challenge faced by food producers and retailers worldwide. It’s a tricky balancing act of delivering the highest standards of hygiene and food safety, whilst using materials and suppliers who are gentler on our earth and don’t contribute more to plastic pollution and food waste.
At Shepherd’s, we’ve always tried to do our best on these issues but at times, we’ve struggled to find the right solutions for our business which will enable us to deliver our preservative-free, handmade food at it’s freshest to you, without relying on packaging and production options which are not sustainable.
This year, we’ve tackled the problem of making our food service more sustainable head on and are proud to have made some big changes in how we make, transport and serve our food. The aim overall is to reduce our reliance on non-renewable materials, minimise food waste and to lessen what we send to landfill. We’ve still got a way to go – and we would love to hear your suggestions if you see something we could do better – but we’re very excited to share with you the steps we’ve taken so far towards a more sustainable Shepherd’s.
Biodegradable Packaging – Sugarcane Bowls and Plates
To coincide with the launch of our new Castle Towers store, we’ve introduced what we think are the coolest biodegradable serving options on earth. Our new bowls and plates are made by our friends at Sydney Packaging from reclaimed – and rapidly renewable – sugarcane pulp. Unlike plastic (non renewable, hard to recycle and takes up to 1000 years to break down) or paper (reliant on logging, not entirely grease-proof) our sugarcane bowls offer the perfect solution for the planet, allowing our customers to enjoy their meal without the risk of liquids leaking through, and without contributing to plastic waste.
Compostable Cutlery – Revode Bioplastic
No more plastic cutlery for us! BioPak 100% bioplastic cutlery is made from Revode bioplastic, which is produced from a rapidly renewable starch sourced from non-GMO crops. We source these unique utensils from Sydney Packaging, and are happy to say that they’re certified commercially compostable. That means that although they do head to landfill, they break down in a short space of time, rather than the hundreds of years which some plastics take to dissolve.
Reusable & Recyclable Coffee Cups
Most coffee cups can’t be recycled. Did you know that? It’s to do with the lining which ensures the hot liquids don’t leach through the cardboard exterior and burn your hand, which is good, but it makes them non-recyclable, which is bad!
Our new coffee partner, Seven Miles, is part of the RecycleMe program which features a takeaway cup with a next generation lining and specially designed collection network, guaranteeing cups collected will be recycled into high quality paper products! Seven Miles also produce a range of lovely reusable cups which are better still to use. You can find them at our Towers store while stocks last.
Reusable and Compostable Bags
Thankfully, the days of single use plastic bags are numbered, and this year we were excited to design and launch our first Shepherd’s reusable calico tote bag for our customers to keep, and bring back to fill with bread each time they visit.
We strongly encourage all customers to bring back their Shepherd’s bag, or any other eco bag, to carry their purchases home… but if you forget, it’s not a catastrophe. We have sourced clever compostable plastic bags for emergencies from our friend John at Churchill & Coombes who have licensed epi technology for producing biodegradable film via www.epi-global.com.
This technology ensures that when a bag is disposed of in landfill it will quickly degrade, leaving no harmful residues.
Low Food Miles
We have always used 100% Australian flour produced right here in NSW, and our friendship with family-run Ben Furney Flour Mills is one of the core relationships of our business. Bringing our wheat from nearby Dubbo (5 hours drive) instead of from interstate or overseas means that we’re contributing less to pollution by way of transportation. We’re also supporting Aussie farmers who are increasingly under pressure from environmental factors including the unprecedented drought.
The majority of other ingredients we use are sourced as close to our Sefton bakery as possible, with less than 10% originating from overseas and most being from our state. So you can enjoy your sourdough, pie or croissant knowing your climate footprint is a lot lower than many other options out there!
Nice Kitty Vegan Clean Treats
This year, our biggest highlight has certainly been teaming up with Nice Kitty Co to introduce a range of vegan treats to our Shepherd’s range, with their delicious plant-based Bars and Bites. The trend for consuming less animal products continues to grow, as people become aware of the stress that dairy and meat consumption places on the environment. From Meatless Mondays, to the Reduceatarian Movement, awareness about how our food choices impact the planet has grown rapidly and we’re thrilled to be sharing these incredible products – produced largely from organic ingredients – with our customers in support of this movement.
Diverting Bread from Landfill
This initiative is our oldest, and one which is needed now more than ever given the challenges facing our waste systems, charities and farmers. Food waste can be one of the biggestbarriers to creating a sustainable food service operation but at Shepherd’s, we’ve worked out a system which means we throw very, very few loaves away…
Any ‘wonky’, excess or unsold bread is firstly reused by our kitchen team, by being converted to breadcrumbs for use in our sausage rolls. Following this, spare fresh loaves are offered to a number of local charities who feed the homeless and families in financial crisis, including one which Shepherd’s team members volunteer for.
Once our charities have taken as much bread as they need, a number of farmers from the rural communities surrounding Sydney take stale loaves to feed their pigs, chickens and other animals.
In this way, we ensure that we minimise the bread which is sent to landfill, and maximise the number of mouths our bakery feeds each day!