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Melbourne zero-carbon restaurant Atiyah paves the way for sustainability in foodservice

As consumers look to businesses to boost their commitment to sustainability and reduce waste, a tiny eatery in Melbourne, Australia, is showcasing to the world how it is possible for restaurants to reduce their environmental impact. 

 

Atiyah, which serves authentic Lebanese cuisine, is Australia’s first zero-carbon restaurant. What makes the diner so special is that it has an almost entirely self-sufficient kitchen. It is powered by solar energy and harvests rainwater which is purified before being used for cooking.

Located in Melbourne’s Federation Square, in the heart of the city’s CBD, Atiyah has saved 20,250kg of carbon emissions, harvested 16,890 litres of rainwater, offset 5545 kWh of renewable energy, and diverted 2460kg of waste since it launched last year.

 

The kitchen’s concept was inspired by Lebanon’s electricity and water crisis, where living off the grid and being self-sufficient is the ideal strategy. The co-founder is currently stranded in Beiruit awaiting the lifting of Covid border-travel restrictions before she can return to Australia. 

 

Such has been the restaurant’s success so far, Atiyah’s owners have now launched Australia’s first zero-carbon catering service. Next step: they are eyeing opportunities to expand the concept to other Australian cities and internationally, eager to share the blueprint for sustainable restaurant management with other entrepreneurs.

 

Ben Armstrong, co-founder and MD of Atiyah, says the kitchen can run anywhere in the world so long as there is rainwater. 

 

The commitment to sustainability runs from sourcing products through to kitchen operations and then packaging and utensils for customers. 

 

For example, Atiyah’s menu shows customers the carbon emissions saved with each bite and drink – and surplus rainwater not required for operations is filtered and sold to customers, reducing the need for bottled water. All food packaging is compostable.

 

Food is sourced locally using seasonal produce, with meat supplied by Melba Fresh or Five Founders, Australia's first carbon-neutral beef.

Besides its zero-carbon promise, the eatery goes a step further in its sustainability efforts by helping its food and beverage suppliers replace plastic packaging with eco-friendly alternatives. Armstrong helps suppliers willing to make this transition by offering partial funding and help source compostable or close-loop replacements.

 

Research from The Waste Revolution shows that 91 per cent of plastic ends up in landfills or flushes into water sources. It also revealed that around 12.5kg of plastic waste is created every month from whole food and drink suppliers.

 

By helping suppliers make this switch, the kitchen will help eliminate an estimated 150kg of plastic waste per year. 

 

“To achieve our goal in being plastic-free requires a collective effort from across the entire food and hospitality industry,” Armstrong said. “We needed to find a solution, and that came in the way of working with our existing suppliers to help establish how we could look at eco-friendly solutions to transport food and drinks, all while maintaining health regulations and standards.

 

“We hope that more businesses across the sector will start having conversations with their suppliers, look at their packaging and processes to start making incremental changes for the better,” he added.

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