Resource reuse and business planning at the Creative Café

A recent discussion with Lynne and John—owners of the Creative Café in Barrie—about sustainability quickly turned to ways to reuse materials destined for landfill. Creative Café is a family-friendly paint your own pottery studio which also offers glass fusing, mosaics, canvas painting, pottery wheel, and clay hand building—perfect for parties or a day excursion.

Evidence of waste diversion efforts are to be found all around the cheerful, colourfully decorated art studio. Brightly painted clay plates are displayed using reclaimed wall hooks that otherwise would have found a resting place in the garbage. Sturdy restaurant chairs and tables have been reclaimed and decorated with whimsical paintings. Display cases—and even the checkout counter—found a new home at Creative Café after outgrowing their purpose at another business. Packing boxes for supplies serve double duty as packing boxes for customers to take their creations home, as does wrapping paper and packing material. Not only does this save these items from ending up as waste, it also reduces the cost of doing business. As supporters of the idea of a business material exchange program, John and Lynne also have a history of facilitating the donation of used kilns to organizations such as children’s camps. Not only has this kept them out of the landfill, but it has helped groups that may otherwise not have been able to afford to run a clay firing program.

Unique to Creative Café’s line of businesses is the fact that the kilns necessary for operation give off heat. At Creative Café, firing is scheduled to supplement heating during the day in the cold months. To eliminate unnecessary use of air conditioners, pottery is fired at night during the summer months. Other energy saving practices include minimization of the use of hot water, installation of light sensors and energy-efficient lighting.

Operating a business often comes with challenges. Due to the fact that Creative Café is not a full food service provider, they are not allowed by regulation to serve beverages in reusable mugs. This necessitates the use of paper cups and single use water bottles. This is where the customer can lend a hand and bring their own reusable containers for coffee, tea and water. Even better—bring back the mug that was created during the last visit to Creative Café.

The launch of a material reuse section on the Explore Lake Simcoe website was spurred on when John mentioned that, in the past, Creative Café had an arrangement with a nearby business to reuse perfectly good packaging material. Creative Café used the packing material to wrap and protect customer creations. This saved the original company waste management charges, saved Creative Café money, and diverted material from the waste stream. These types of synergies exist, but business owners may not always have the information necessary to capitalize on an arrangement of this kind. As a result, the Explore Lake Simcoe project will now work to support businesses to use the successful Material Exchange program hosted by Partners in Project Green— more information coming soon!

About The AuthorAileen MacMillan holds an Honours Bachelor of Environmental Studies degree from the University of Waterloo, and has worked as an independent consultant on environmental projects related to waste management, water quality protection, and environmental education. She has many years of experience working in small business and working collaboratively with teams and individual stakeholders.

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