My wonderful colleagues have been working on a series, Transition…
In the heart of Brighton’s trendy North Laines, Silo has taken on the task of becoming the UK’s first zero-waste café, restaurant and bakery.
In a notoriously progressive city with the nation’s only Member of Parliament from the Green party, and boasting hundreds of places to eat and drink, there are few better cities to set up a sustainable restaurant.
Silo takes on its zero-waste mission by producing as much as it can internally, reusing everything it can, and only serving six different dishes a day. As a waiter enthusiastically told me as I paid a visit, everything from the sourdough bread to the soft drinks were made fresh on site, with the flour mill and bottles to prove it.
You are welcomed inside from the harsh Brighton winds with an overwhelming smell of cocoa, a selection of bakery goods and a chalk board with its ambitious mission statement, to “serve nutrient dense foods made from scratch using primitive-proven preparation methods only using produce sourced from ethical growers that practice methods that encourage healthy soils and biodiversity, all without generating waste”. This board with good intentions and better buzzwords certainly seems to be fulfilled. Menus are presented on electronic tablets, cutting down on paper, drinks are served out of used jars (opposed to new shop-bought mason jars that have become a recent trend) and bottled water is shunned in favour of tap water.
This approach to catering is surprisingly replicable. Whilst Silo does have a few key apparatus to reuse its waste, like their £22,000 compost machine that takes all scraps and leftovers including coffee grounds, the key idea of only cooking and serving a small number of dishes to reduce waste could be applied to any business.
Reduced costs for the a business owner by buying less, and increased profit margins by wasting less: it seems reducing waste is as helpful for business as for the environment.
Indeed, the idea of zero-waste as a selling point, and by only working with ethical and environmentally friendly suppliers means that a clientèle is built in, with people wanting to see how already popular local provider’s produce translates in a mid-price setting. The customers aren’t just limited to the environmentally engaged however. Just surveying the tables around me were families, students and businessmen people: A café with fans as diverse as its incredible coffee range, all ethically produced of course.
The message of zero-waste is certainly subtle but ever present, with food and drink rightfully taking centre stage. Whilst the WiFi password may be “ZeroWaste”, the walls show projections of menus and simple crockery storage, not posters or feel-good propaganda for those already informed.
Alas, the Silo model hasn’t exactly caught on all throughout Brighton just yet, with a 200+ dish restaurant opening up on the marina a few miles away in a month or two. We can only hope that Brighton residents will choose sustainable, creative community initiatives with their wallets and hope the initiative echoes throughout the city.