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Elements Eatery - National Changemaker Series

Elements Eatery is an award-winning Mornington Peninsula café that offers an opportunity for locals and visitors to enjoy barista coffee and healthy, locally inspired food & produce. 

With a capacity of well over 120 seats indoors and outdoors, the eatery makes the most of the light-filled surrounds of the state of the art Yawa Aquatic Centre. 

Owned and operated by experienced local foodie and hospitality professional Tracey Fleming, Elements has a strong focus on healthy eating, accessibility, inclusion, sustainability and community.

Tracey and her team pride themselves on professional, friendly service – welcoming all customers with a smile.

We sat down with Tracey to talk all things sustainability and how this celebrated local business is taking their focus on supporting a circular economy to a whole new level. 

What does a focus on sustainability mean to you and your business? 

The Yawa Aquatic Centre has a strong commitment to environmental sustainability. This commitment completely aligns with our own philosophy –  we are all about community, connection and looking after the planet.  

We reduce our impact as much as possible across our operations and always look for ways to contribute positively to our community. 

One area that sets us apart is our health and wellness lens. We serve an 80% green focused ‘healthy choices’ menu. This means we offer locally sourced, fresh and healthy food through all our offerings.

What does it mean to you to be a ‘national changemaker’, to ‘lead the way’? 

It means that as a business owner, I constantly take a very critical look at how we operate. It’s all about accountability, taking full responsibility for what we do. It means striving for best practice, challenging the status quo and to keep going – even when it’s hard. 

Driving change requires working hand in hand with my staff and our suppliers. It is at times a very slow process but it is very satisfying. 

Tell us about your focus on eliminating waste and supporting a circular economy? 

At Elements, we are working on creating our own micro circular economy. We have taken a very close look at the resource streams across our operations and are reducing, reusing and recycling as much as we can. 

We prioritise local suppliers when sourcing our produce – to minimise carbon miles and to limit the need for packaging – reducing our impact from the outset. To reduce our transport emissions and packaging even further, we grow what we can on site in our kitchen garden. 

In terms of our kitchen, we are aiming to completely eliminate waste. We have for example connected with Zero Waste Peninsula who deliver a local composting solution. They collect our 280l of food waste each week, ensuring this valuable resource is composted via local farms, rather than sending it to landfill. 

Similarly, our coffee grounds are offered to the community for their gardens, again avoiding landfilling these valuable resources. Many of our regulars bring us local produce for our kitchen in return – lemons, herbs – you name it. 

How are you supporting Australia’s shift away from single use plastic packaging? 

We are proudly supporting the shift away from single use to reusable packaging. Currently, 50% of our takeaway coffees are served in reusable cups. We actively promote BYO and ask our customers if they brought their own cup or if they are dining in – making single-use takeaways the least preferred option. 

We offer a 20c discount for patrons who bring their own cups. Plus we have a loyalty club where customers get their 10th coffee for free if they BYO. 

We have made our loyalty program really straight forward for our patrons… the program is built into our computer system, it’s paperless. Customers have their own barcode – making it easy for us to track. With packaging costs continuing to go up, the shift to reuse is a win win for us. 

As part of Boomerang Alliance’s Plastic Free Places program, we are also continuing to work on eliminating other remaining single-use takeaway plastics across our venue. 

“Elements is part of the wellness sector, so moving away from single use plastic packaging is not just about the environment for us. We also consider the negative impacts that plastics can have on our health.”

One of the main barriers to shift from single use to reuse is that patrons may forget to bring their own cup. We therefore have a major focus on educating our customers and letting them know reusables are preferred. We feature reusables and our loyalty club on all of our table talkers, in our newsletter which goes out to 6000 patrons, prominent signage and displays at the counter, a news page on our website and across our socials. We also sell a range of reusable cups via a central display in the cafe. 

What’s next?

Our goals for the year ahead include:

  1. Continuing to shift away from single use to reuse: having zero single use plastics in our business is a huge goal. 

  2. Continuing the diversion of foodwaste with Zero Waste Peninsula to support local farmers

  3. Customer education: taking our reusable education program to the next level. 

A word of advice or inspiration for other businesses looking to embrace a circular economy? 

Don’t compare yourself to anyone. Your business is unique, it is completely different to others. Focus on one step at a time and keep going, even if change is slow and at times frustrating. If it gets too overwhelming, just take one hamster off the wheel. As a business owner, sustainability and profit need to be considered at the same time and that is very possible.

Any change for good is a good change. 


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