ISSUE 3 | FEATURE
Meeting Hayley and Cassie the founders of Sustainable Table really inspired us to be part of a huge food revolution. With small acts of conscious eating, sourcing, buying and re-using we can be more responsible for our “food footprint”.
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We were pretty shocked when founders Cassie and Hayley told us that 60% of our personal eco-footprint is embodied in the food that we buy and the way we prepare and waste our food everyday. The over-packaging of food products, the wastage of food as you’re preparing (and all those leftovers) the way food is purchased and transported – it’s no wonder we’re harming our mother-earth. We also found out how easy it is to make simple changes to be more accountable for your food actions everyday. We encourage everyone to visit the Sustainable Table website – it’s a fantastic resource on where to find ethical food suppliers and how to eat seasonally and reduce waste!
We were welcomed to a home-cooked sustainable breakfast to learn all about this amazing organisation and the people behind this unique story… Hayley also answered a few questions about her journey and the organisation..
Tell us a little about your background and what led you to found Sustainable Table?
I started my working life subscribing to the values of the corporate world. It was a life-changing trip to Africa when I was 24 years old, which shifted my perspective so dramatically that within a few months of returning, I had left my job and started my own journey. The only problem was, I didn’t know what this journey was or where it would end up!
I spent 2 ½ years out of full time work. Volunteering, studying, researching, learning, working in a local organic store and constantly brainstorming and planning new business ideas. Things finally started to come together when I attended a youth leadership course on sustainable development in January 2009.
Following this I coaxed my high school friend Cassie Duncan and my sister Nikki to join me in starting an environmental charity. We were very general in our approach when we started, but I found myself on another life changing trip to Africa when I went to study sustainable agriculture and food security on a two week residential in Stellenbosch. On my return we decided to get an understanding of the food system in Australia and started talking with farmers to chefs, and basically anyone who would give us the time. We decided to collect these stories and people’s recipes and make a cookbook about sustainable eating; i.e The Sustainable Table. The book was an instant success, so we decided to go with the flow and rename ourselves to Sustainable Table and make sustainable food systems our core focus.
What advice can you give readers on how to hold a sustainable gathering?Sign up to our Give a Fork! campaign!! The purpose of the campaign is to give people the tools to hold their own sustainable gatherings.
Aside from that the simplest and easiest peace of advice is to do your shopping at a farmers market for your meal. Then you know you are buying local, seasonal and ethical produce. Also try and reduce the meat and seafood you serve and show people how tasty fresh vegetables can be!
What has been your most memorable or rewarding project to date with Sustainable Table?The creation of our first book The Sustainable Table. We were relatively young and in hindsight rather naive when we decided to make the book. It was a decision made in the space of a minute, which ended up being a huge job.
It was a real team and family effort. Cassie project managing and writing all the stories, my sister was re-creating all the recipes, my mum taking all the photos… A couple of months before the book was launched I gave birth to my daughter so I remember editing stories with one hand whilst breastfeeding with the other. I got quite good at one handed typing.
The launch event for the book was such a good feeling. Everyone responded so well. It was after this event that we knew we were onto something good.
Who inspires you in the sustainable field?Tobias Webb – the founder of Ethical Corporation in the UK. I follow his blog and find his insights into corporate sustainability really interesting. He seems to be one of the few people who come up with their own content rather then recycling others.
The late Ray Andersen, Founder of Interface Carpets – After reading a book he decided to transformed his company into a leading example for business sustainability and pioneering the circular economy.
What motivates you on a day-to-day basis?A combination of a number of things…
- Seeing the movement take shape and knowing we are a part of it. There are such positive signs of change happening in sustainable food systems. Each month there seems to be growth in numbers, media, interest and organisations involved in this space.
- An understanding of how bad the situation is. I could never imagine doing anything else in my life because I know too much. I don’t think I could turn a blind eye and hope that others solve the problem for me.
- A blind determination and passion. This is just part of me. When I want to do something I want to do it properly and wholeheartedly. I’ve never had trouble with motivation. My problem is learning when to stop.
What does a typical day at work involve for you?
Lots of meetings! I spend a lot of time out of the office talking and meeting with different people. When I’m back at the office then there are more meetings and probably some time answering emails. Actual work generally happens later at night once my daughter has gone to bed.
What would your dream project be?The creation of a documentary about the food system in Australia that uncovers everything from the plight of the farmers, impacts of different farming methods, food waste, energy, chemical run-offs and contaminations, GMO’s, water and the in-ethical treatment of animals. There are documentaries like this made on the US food system and Australian stories cover small aspects or single topics. I’d love to see one created that summed up the issue in a really simple and powerful way.
In 2014 the Sustainable Table are pledging to go waste free, support their project on pozible here.