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By guest blogger Tez Kemp, co-owner of La Madre artisan bakery in Geelong with his wife, Anna Spurling.
It is a pretty brave man who admits publicly that his wife was right.
A few years back, Anna came to me with a plan for La Madre to ‘go green’. I was your clichéd climate sceptic. Although there were parts of her argument that were logical, I just couldn’t see it. I didn’t understand sustainability. I thought it was a fad and I was sure it would cost the business money.
So we negotiated a ‘deal’. She could pursue a sustainable path for the bakery but it had to be outside of her normal working hours. The running of the business was the priority. At the time, I had no idea how running a green business was such a simple thing to do.
Anna worked with VECCI and its ‘Grow me the money’ program to start some basic baseline reporting. It was focused on bill data and there were a few simple tips to slowly start to change the culture. But when we looked at relocating our bakehouse and tripling the floor space, we knew that we didn’t want triple the bills.
We then won a small grant from VECCI, which we put towards a solar hot water system and a rainwater tank. The penny started to drop. So we opened conversations with our builder and tradesmen about how serious we were about making our retrofit as sustainable as possible. There were a lot of blank looks when we told them we wanted to install a heat shifter, so it was a matter of a quick Google search and some clever craftsmanship. Now, the heat from the ovens warms our office and shop.
But the writing was on the wall when we got the first quarterly bill in the new premises. Our production increased by 20 per cent but our energy efficiency increased by a massive 62 per cent.
Right now, I would say that I am 85 per cent there. Whilst it is very much a part of our vision and ethos as a business, I am continually learning and understanding more about the whole sustainability picture. This behaviour change has been a tough thing with our staff too. At first, anything that Anna suggested was met with ‘the boys won’t do it’ but I’ve turned it around. I think most of the ideas are mine now!
One of my proudest moments on our green journey was when our hot cross buns went carbon neutral. They’re the first of their kind in Australia. It is a small step but indicates just how serious we are about sustainability. We’ve seen a reduction in our energy use on a per-loaf basis too, which is fantastic. And seeing a change in the way our employees approach their work is great too, although as with me, this is a work in progress.
Anna went on to study a Diploma in Sustainability but we knew she couldn’t do it all, especially now with four kids. So our production manager and I are in the midst of completing ‘The Green Light Project’ with the Geelong Manufacturing Council to improve our reporting.
Our vision is to be Australia’s first zero waste, carbon neutral artisan bakery. Whilst we are only part of the way through this journey, we are constantly analysing and questioning everything we do.
La Madre uses traditional baking techniques – including a gradual fermentation – and scours the land for the finest ingredients. Each loaf is individually crafted in the bakers’ hands, plus we say no to preservatives and additives. La Madre is also passionately committed to sustainable baking and business practices. Click here for more info: www.lamadre.com.au