A Greenhouse Interview with Gus of Greenhouse Restaurant, Perth, Australia
Michael and I, have the dream of one day owning our very own eco-friendly and sustainable business. To work towards achieving our dream, we plan on exploring and discovering not only new countries and cultures during our cycle trip, but also different eco-friendly businesses. By speaking to different green businesses, we hope to discover the secrets to running a successful green business.
What better way to start doing this than asking our local eco-friendly businesses for tips in our hometown Perth, Australia?
Here is our the Greenhouse Interview Our very first, “Green Interview.” During the Greenhouse interview we spoken to Gustavo Potenza the venue manager at the inspirational Greenhouse Perth. We’re discovered the challenges Greenhouse has endured in their journey to becoming sustainable. And, what tips he has for new sustainable businesses.
For those of you that have never heard of Greenhouse Perth, I’ll give you the run down;
Greenhouse is a Joost Bakker creation. Originally he opened the doors to the Greenhouse in Melbourne, as a temporary interactive art installation showcasing his revolutionary new building design and a whole lot of other ideas on how to use waste products. The project was a great success and after its removal the search was on to find the perfect location for a more permanent venture, and what better place than Perth?
Greenhouse Perth opened its doors to the public in December 2009. Over the next 2 ½ years Paul and a group of passionate individuals worked tirelessly to shape the venue into one of Perth’s most exciting and sustainable destinations. In 2010 Greenhouse Perth was named WA restaurant of the year.
Greenhouse Interview: Questions and Answers
1. What’s been the biggest challenge so far?
Gus: I’ve been here since June 2015. One of the biggest challenges is basically to keep a venue on the trends while so many other venues launch often in the city. The new venues have that inaugural hype and a venue trying to stay on the top needs to reinvent itself all the time! Maintaining that status is the biggest challenge with a fierce competition that is often choosing the cheapest produce while we keep competitive prices with organic locally sourced produce.
2. What are the restaurant’s goals?
Gus: Greenhouse has established itself as one of the icon venues in CBD and even in Greater Perth. Maintaining that status is already an achievement. Greenhouse development is entirely about reinventing the possibilities within a sustainable culture and cuisine. Chefs working to create great seasonal recipes from locally sourced produce mixing all kinds of cuisine for a very modern mix. Matching cocktails using homemade syrups (some with herbs supplied from our own garden) and organic spirits. Greenhouse goals for this moment are all about maintaining the venue where it belongs while being able to offer good fresh produce for a competitive price and also being able to invest in initiatives such as the City of Perth or OZ Harvest ones.
3. What has the restaurant achieved?
Gus: On its first and second year the restaurant achieved awards and recognition. Maintaining the venue on top for so many years is a big achievement, if I may say! We’re soon launching a campaign with City of Perth to give proper destination to coffee grind (which is a big issue especially on the CBD with hundreds of coffee shops around) and lessening waste on disposable take-away cups since Greenhouse is the ONLY venue on CBD to compost and return the coffee grind to the community for gardening purposes, and one of the few to offer compostable disposable cups and a discount for people who bring their own coffee mug. Greenhouse and its sous-chef Grant O’Brien participated on OZ Harvest WA’s 1st Birthday event cooking for 500 people in need with rescued food produce.
4. What do you think the market demand for sustainable restaurants will be like in the future? Is it just a current fad? Or do people really care about sustainability?
Gus: I see it both ways. I even believe the hype about sustainability is not at its peak anymore like it was 5 years ago. As with everything else it’s a cycle. I do believe governments and organizations will keep pushing the issue more and more, but the customer in general doesn’t really care if the restaurant uses only recycled paper for instance. Especially in a city’s CBD where people have to eat somewhere, I don’t believe they come to Greenhouse specifically for that.
People come to Greenhouse because compared to any restaurant chain they know they will pay a similar price for a homemade kind of meal with lots of love involved in its production. It tastes better, really! There are some people who really care. We have regulars, people who proudly bring friends and family. Many of them would do a whole tour around the venue showing around every single sustainable aspect of it. Unfortunately the amount of sustainability passionate people around is not enough to keep a business open.
5. Has the restaurants been able to maintain a zero-carbon footprint? And what are some of the ways the restaurant is able to do this? If not, how is the restaurant working towards reducing it’s carbon footprint?
Gus: Unfortunately, no, not a zero carbon footprint, but all the initiatives we take part in bring us among the top restaurants/bars/cafes in Australia. We compost all the organic waste and some of the packaging used in the restaurant, and return it for free to the community as a dense high nutrient compost for their garden. We also reuse many kinds of materials such as bottles, jars and more, and recycle all the glass and paper used in the venue.
Greenhouse uses only recycled and/or carbon neutral paper for printing menus and any other documents, including recycled paper towels and toilet paper in the toilets. The male toilets in the restaurant use a waterless systems, and all toilets use a reusing flush system that utilizes the next flushes water’s to wash hands while the cistern is being filled. Greenhouse uses only compostable Envirocup to serve take-away coffees. We offer a 50 cent discount on take away coffees to people who bring their own coffee mug.
6. What’s your background? Do you have a background in sustainability? Or running a sustainable/ green restaurant? Or other business?
Gus: I’m Brazilian, in general that’s a trend topic in Brazil due to its immense forests and how fast they’re being consumed by humans. Both my parents are Chefs and Restaurateurs and have owned restaurants for over 20 years in Brazil. I basically was trained from scratch by them and I hold a Hospitality Diploma. Apart from being a sustainability supporter myself and being involved in some Sustainable NGO initiatives in Brazil related to keeping the Beaches and Ocean clean, I’ve never had the pleasure of working nor running a Green establishment before.
One of my parent’s restaurants in Boicucanga, Brazil was a very sustainability aware place and held many of the sustainable initiatives we practice here at Greenhouse, such as buying local products, producing compost from organic waste, maintaining herbs garden for the restaurant’s use and getting foraged produce, menus designed for a minimum waste generation and the initiative of reusing many materials supplied with products such as bottles and jars.
7. There are some beautiful pieces in the Greenhouse. I love the recycled gas cylinder bowls in the roof bar. What’s your favourite piece? And where do you find them?
Gus: I love the coiled old fencing wires used as light shades downstairs in the main area. All the material was scavenged by Joost Bakker for Greenhouse’s construction, so everything is recycled. This shade sets the tone for a very cozy ambient at night!
8. What’s your biggest tip for someone wanting to open/ run their own “green” restaurant, or any other eco business?
Gus: Do it only if you are really passionate about it since the obstacles and challenges will present bigger and more often than if you don’t follow that path. It’s not easy but it’s very rewarding!
Thank you Gus for your time, sharing your experience and knowledge with us, and letting us write this Greenhouse interview!
Coffee grind waste! I’m, like many other Perthians, a huge coffee lover! I’m aware of the environmental impact of takeaway coffee cups and the ethical issues related with sourcing coffee beans, but I can honestly say, I’ve never considered the environmental impact of the actual coffee grind. Particular, as Gus pointed out, it can be used to make good compost! Definitely, a big takeaway for me!
Greenhouse is the ONLY venue on CBD to compost and return the coffee grind to the community for gardening purposes. It is also one of the few to offer compostable disposable cups. And, a discount for people who bring their own coffee mug.
It’s important to consider in your business plan that the number of sustainability passionate people is sadly not enough to run a business.
The biggest challenge is being competitive, as well as sustainable. Offering the cheapest produce with competitive prices and organic locally sourced produce.
Next time you’re in the city, head down to the Greenhouse Perth for some inspiration! Enjoy one of their delicious organic cocktails, while admiring their many sensational, recyclable pieces.