While cafés and restaurants were forced to shut to control the spread of COVID-19, two local business owners took advantage of the time out of the café to take steps toward their ultimate goal of becoming carbon neutral.
Since Rob and Tania O’Toole took over Vertical Café in February of 2019 they have made significant changes to the business in the name of sustainability. When they reopened in May it was with the addition of a brand new composter, stored at their home, which will keep the majority of the waste from the café out of landfills. Instead the finished compost will be used in the future Sun Peaks Community Garden as well as on a small garden plot planted to grow fresh produce for use in their baking and cooking.
The Joracan composter, made in Canada out of recycled materials, is now the receptacle of any compostable waste Vertical produces, including their biodegradable paper products like take out containers and coffee cups, cutlery, straws and even the thermal paper from their point of sale machine.
Rob said so far they bring home a 20 litre pail filled with material for the composter each day, but expected it could double in the busier winter months.
Previously, he said, they would take garbage to the dumpster three or four times a day; now they aren’t even filling one bag.
Separate bins for compost, recycle and trash are provided to guests who, the O’Tooles said, have been supportive of the initiative and happy to sort their waste.
“People are even collecting their takeout cups to come back and recycle and compost,” said Rob. “Most people, especially younger people, are super stoked.”
“People are more than willing,” Tania added.
Other free time during the unscheduled closure was used for the couple to plant a garden patch nearby in Whitecroft, where the season will be longer than at Sun Peaks’ higher elevation.
Some of the produce planted includes peas, zucchini, radishes, arugula, kale and swiss chard, all of which Tania plans to use in the café.
“I grew up on a farm so gardening is a natural thing. It’s nice to know where your food is coming from,” she said.
Other produce comes from Thistle Farm in Kamloops, one of many local suppliers hand picked in an effort to support local producers and promote food security.
“We’ve always known we wanted a local flair,” Tania said.
Meat is brought in from nearby Devick Ranch or Rainer Meats, Kamloops’ Local Pulse hummus is being used in wraps and dairy is purchased from Kamloops’ Blackwell Dairy Farm, to name a few local suppliers.
“Supporting each other is what it’s all about,” Tania said.
The couple agreed the composter and other additions to support local and be more sustainable have been exciting.
“The level of satisfaction at the end of the day is great when we have a small garbage, two big bags of recycling and a 20 litre pail (for compost),” Rob said. “If we’re living here and making an income from the outdoors we have a responsibility to take care of it.”