Sustainable cafes brewing good food revolution

Streat coffee cup on bench

Peter Nugent and Megan Whitfield

Posted July 05, 2019

Food does more than just taste good at these planet-friendly Victorian cafes.

What does your daily coffee do? Does it wake you up? Get you going? Signal the start of another busy day? For Streat, every coffee they make and serve offers another disadvantaged young person a second shot at life.

The social enterprise has grown enormously since its humble beginnings when founders Bec Scott and Kate Barrelle ambitiously rolled a coffee cart into Melbourne’s Federation Square a decade ago. Now there are five coffee kiosks across the CBD, a restaurant, catering company, bakery, and coffee business.

Streat gives youths aged 16 to 24 a new beginning. At every stage of this unique enterprise you will find them, working as baristas, servers, bakers, pastry chefs and more.

“Our kids all have different backgrounds,” Streat deputy CEO Elise Bennetts explains. “From mental health issues, straight out of prison, we’ve got kids who have been subjected to domestic violence.”

Each Streat trainee embarks on a six-month life-changing training program, teaching them not only job skills, but life skills too.

“We see so many crisis organisations where they are fixing the issue that is at hand, but what it is not actually doing is providing a lifetime of opportunities for young people,” Elise adds. “Streat sees itself as that pathway from crisis to stability.

“We actually call our young people the most resilient young people we know because they have had to survive. When they reach us they are disenfranchised, they are sick of the system that they are in. It takes a lot of time to build trust to make sure that we can provide them with an opportunity and they can see a future and thrive.”

The relationship between Streat and its graduates does not end after the six-month training course.

“We pride ourselves that Streat is somewhere for them to belong for life,” said Elise. “We never say ‘goodbye’ to anybody, if there is something that goes wrong they can always come back here, we are a soft place to land at all times.”

RACV is proud to be one of Streat’s many corporate partners. There’s a Streat coffee kiosk in the foyer of our Bourke Street headquarters, and we’ve helped by donating a van and more recently installing solar panels at Streat’s Cromwell Street headquarters in Collingwood.

“We’re not 100 per cent sustainable at the moment with our businesses and it is our corporate partners who make us viable,” Elise explains.

So next time you grab a brew consider this…

“We know that there’s 24 different ways that you can do good by buying one cup of coffee at Streat, we’ve mapped it,” says Elise. “Just by doing something that you do every single day is creating 24 areas of goodness, one of those obviously is to train a young person when they’re giving you that coffee.”

Outside Brae Restaurant

Brae Restaurant

Where to eat sustainably in Victoria

Whether you’re craving a steaming bowl of pho or seeking the ultimate curry, a tasty meal in Victoria is never too far away.

However, with climate change an increasingly pressing concern, these hospo hotspots are starting to serve up more than just the best new brew. Sustainability is on the menu.

From metal straws to take-home compost, here are some of Victoria’s best spots for meal a that’ll look after your tastebuds and the planet.

Ladro TAP

Outside of bringing hungry guests delicious Italian food, Ladro TAP is making a name for itself with its sustainable business practices.

In a bid to reduce their food waste, they’ve installed two close-loop bio-composters at both of their locations (the original Ladro is in Fitzroy), recycling their organic waste into bags of compost available to customers free of charge. Ladro TAP re-uses the empty tubs their mozzarella is delivered in, and allows customers to bring in their own takeaway containers.

They also serve most of their beers, house wines and soft drinks on tap, avoiding waste from bottles and cans, and have banned plastic straws. Sustainability has never tasted so good.

162 Greville St, Prahran. Visit:

Napier Quarter

As every Melburnian knows, the day hasn’t begun until you’ve had your first coffee. Napier Quarter is reminding us all to slow down by no longer stocking single-use coffee cups or offering takeaways even when you BYO cup.

Instead, they’re encouraging customers to come in five minutes earlier, sit down and enjoy their first brew in a proper cup. To sweeten the deal, they’ve brought down their coffee prices. Reduce your environmental footprint, and have a calmer start to your day while you do it.

359 Napier St, Fitzroy. Visit:

The Merri Cafe

Carrying on CERES’ important work looking after the planet, the Merri Cafe offers vegan and gluten-free options, and wherever possible uses local produce. All meat and dairy products are cruelty-free, free-range and organic to minimise their impact on the planet.

CERES Community Environment Park, Roberts Street & Stewart Street, Brunswick East. Visit:

Healthy Hub

The Healthy Hub in Ballarat, as the name suggests, is all about nutritious food. Equally important to them is looking out for the environment.

Staff encourage customers to bring reusable coffee cups and their own containers to take meals and leftovers home, and they offer a discount for this. They also have takeaway bags made from bamboo rather than plastic, or you can buy a ‘boomerang bag’ – a carry bag made from recycled materials.

If you’re feeling crafty, you can even take home a kit to make a boomerang bag (or three) of your own.

100 Bridge Mall, Bakery Hill. Visit:

Freshly picked tomatoes on heshen

Lentil as Anything

Chances are, you’ve come across this name before. A social enterprise, the focus of Lentil as Anything is providing food without boundaries, with a daily-changing menu and ‘pay as you feel’ prices to ensure everyone is able to enjoy a hearty meal.

Seasonal produce is used to create vegan dishes, and guests are encouraged to contribute in any way they can – from volunteering in the kitchen or on the floor, or paying what they can for their meal. At all locations, there is even a pay-as-you-go grocery store, offering rescued food.

1/3 St Heliers St, Abbotsford | 562-564 High St, Thornbury | 41 Blessington St, St Kilda. Visit:


If sustainability was a competition, Brae would be hard to beat. The 2019 Good Food regional restaurant of the year, it’s hard to tell which is more impressive, the daily-selected fine-dining menu, or their work for the environment.

Set on an organic farm, they grow most of their produce themselves, from fruits and vegies to nuts and olives for oil. Resident chickens provide free-range eggs, while bees produce their honey. Brae harvest rain water for drinking, have a worm farm waste-treatment system, employ regenerative farming techniques and use a closed-loop waste and composting program.

That, and the food is pretty spectacular. Save this up for a special occasion, and treat yourself and the planet.

4285 Cape Otway Rd, Birregurra. Visit:

Wombat Cafe and Store

The first entirely vegan cafe and store on the Mornington Peninsula, sustainability has always been at the forefront of Wombat Cafe and Store. Each day you can find a selection of tasty, guilt-free baked treats, alongside fresh breakfast and lunch options. Metal straws are used in drinks, with bamboo straws available for purchase, they’ve partnered only with ethical suppliers, and the coffee is locally roasted.

Plus, funds from the cafe go towards Plumfield Farm, an animal sanctuary run by the cafe’s owner to give animals a second chance at life.

230 Boundary Rd, Dromana. Visit:


Social enterprise Streat has always had a focus on giving back to the community, offering disadvantaged youth a pathway from homelessness to a sustainable livelihood. Staff are offered a range of programs from hospitality short courses to work-experience opportunities, and more than 80 per cent of participants from their life skills, work experience and hospitality training program go on to get their first job or further education.

However, their good deeds don’t end there. They offer quality and ethically sourced coffee to caffeine-deprived customers, and discounts apply for those who bring a reusable cup. Their flagship Cromwell Street site offers a menu that is roughly 50 per cent vegetarian, and 80 per cent of the food served is sourced in Victoria.

Plus, it’s now home to 118 solar panels, courtesy of RACV, saving 52 tonnes of CO2 – the equivalent of planting 1300 trees. We’ll drink to that.

66 Cromwell Street, Collingwood | 485 Bourke St, Melbourne | Melbourne Central | RMIT. Visit: