It would be tone-deaf and entirely ill informed to discuss Sydney’s approach to sustainability without referencing the devastating bushfires which have recently ravaged Australia, and filled the city’s air with toxic smoke. Sydney’s response, however, reflects its values, and the community’s commitment to kindness. From bands performing karaoke in local pubs, to Sydney’s best chefs auctioning off three course meals and (specifically) a 40 foot long antipasti sandwich, the people of Sydney have rallied to help their suffering state.
While the fires themselves have been heartbreaking, the action taken by Sydneysiders has been entirely heart-warming. Venues across Sydney held fundraising events – from clothing sales to concerts – and have demonstrated Sydney’s capacity for kindness. This commitment to achieving positive change has really come to the fore in recent weeks, but across Sydney, there are myriad venues actioning change and championing sustainable practices on a daily basis.
Eat & Drink
Opening its doors in 2003, Single O (formerly Single Origin Roasters) really was born at the origin of Sydney’s now booming coffee scene. Originally a small cafe and coffee roasters in Sydney’s trendy Surry Hills, the company now comprises a solar powered roastery, three beautiful Sydney cafes, and a Tokyo outpost. Single O’s sustainable ethos extends beyond traceable beans: the roastery runs purely on solar energy, the beans are sourced from sustainable plantations, the cafes use cafe tech to reduce waste and encourage reusable cups, and Single O’s founders were involved in inventing “The Juggler”: the world’s first milk tap system. The ethical governance isn’t the only reason to visit a Single O cafe for a cuppa. Single O reflects everything beautiful about Sydney’s cafe culture: minimalist decor, creative contemporary menus (think wasabi tempeh salads and mapo mushrooms on toast) and, naturally, exceptional coffee.
Cornersmith, comprising two Inner West cafes and Sydney’s most iconic picklery, thinks outside the box when it comes to sustainability. The family-run cafes don’t just source their ingredients from local farms, they run trading programs allowing gardeners to trade homegrown produce for pickles or coffee. The pickles and preserves made on-site aren’t just a delicious extension of the product range, they’re a method of reducing food waste. The workshop program isn’t just a platform to promote home cooking, it’s a community. Since opening its first cafe in 2012, Cornersmith has gained a committed following in Sydney for its dedication to its ethos: creative menus inspired by the seasons, hands-on workshops for aspiring cooks, picklers and creators, and a range of chutneys, cookbooks and cordials which have become a staple of every Sydney pantry. Head to the Annandale or Marrickville cafe for a rice bowl in the sun, sign up for a workshop and learn to pickle or grab a hamper full of homemade treats.
Daily Greens does salads, and it does them really, really well. Established by American restaurateur Jem Jacinto, who noticed a distinct lack of well-priced salad spots in Sydney, this Paddington cafe brings a bit of LA to Sydney’s inner east. Think indoor plants, matcha lattes and exceptional bowls of nutritious goodness. Trained in LA at Thomas Keller’s renowned French Laundry, chef Charles Olalia uses sustainably sourced ingredients (all seafood is ASC or MSC accredited, and the house sesame tofu is sourced locally) to create a diverse and delicious menu. While salads (particularly the build your own bowl option) seem to be the Daily Greens strongpoint, the menu ranges from soups to gluten free tartines: all dietary preferences well and truly catered for. If the promise of genuinely tasty and nutritious food isn’t enough to sell you, the setting surely will be. Architect Han Lim has incorporated glass walls, glass roof panels and timber beams to create a light-filled, inspiring space in Paddington’s Intersection: arguably Sydney’s high-end shopping mecca.
Since opening its first store in 1985, Iku has established its name as Sydney’s go-to for healthy food on the go. Now comprising nine whole foods cafes spread across the city, Iku prides itself on providing ‘wholesome comfort food’, but I think it does more than that. The entirely vegan, preservative free menu ranges from tofu laksa to black rice pudding, with all ingredients listed online as well as in the store. Iku’s entirely transparent approach makes it perfect for people with specific dietary requirements and intolerances: gluten free options are always available, and the Iku ethos acknowledges the importance people place on their food. With a focus on promoting health and wellbeing, Iku uses sustainably sourced superfoods (organic and biodynamic where possible) and as little processing as possible, yet manages to provide consistently delicious and creative dishes. Stop off at the Bronte outpost on your way to the beach for a guaranteed glorious picnic, or stop at the Met Centre store if you’re stuck for a healthy lunch in the city.
Ascending the escalator at Martin Place – a busy, corporate transport hub in Sydney’s CBD – a social enterprise which donates all profits to charity is the last thing you expect. But, low and behold, that is what you’ll find. Portal is an ethically governed cafe and co-working space, which is proving that sustainability can be chic. The seasonal menu uses produce from local suppliers (local coffee roaster Gabriel provides the beans, and raw honey is sourced from rooftop beehives in Sydney’s Surry Hills) and customers can choose to support one of three charities through their purchase. As one part of The Pure Collective – an organization supporting people in need – Portal employs refugees taking part in the Pure Collective’s Symbols of Hope program. It’s not just the commitment to ethical operation that makes Portal appealing: the food (including an excellent coconut sago pudding) is delicious, and the Scandi-inspired design creates a beautiful, inspiring setting in the centre of the city.
Trees adorned with fairy lights stretch into the cavernous roof space, abstract art lines the timber partition walls, and a couple cradling cocktails play pool in the corner. A waitress in sneakers and a colourful dress hands us a bowl of olives the moment we arrive: if you’re looking for a unique, entirely indulgent (and entirely vegan) experience in Sydney, Alibi Bar gets my vote. Set in a converted wharf, beneath the quirky boutique hotel Ovolo Woolloomooloo, Alibi is the first entirely plant-based hotel restaurant in Australia and New Zealand. Contrary to common conceptions of veganism, one thing Alibi certainly isn’t is restrictive. Utilizing creative cooking techniques (such as smoking and fermenting) and locally-sourced plant-based ingredients, the menu ranges from kimchi dumplings to chocolate raspberry tart – not a boring mushroom burger in sight. On the topic of burgers, Alibi serves its pea protein Beyond Burger until 11pm, alongside Chic Poppers and Pecking D**k Pancakes from its ‘Dirty Greens’ bar menu. Alibi’s playful approach is reflected through every element: from the abstract design features to the choice of music. Stop in for High Tea with a lavender Bellini, or spend all night drinking smoky margaritas and snacking on vegan tacos, because you can.
Rustic tables groaning with bowls of homemade pasta and natural wines, exposed brickwork, low lighting, loud laughter: Peppe’s has all of the hallmarks of a traditional Italian restaurant, minus the dairy. The entirely vegan menu features homemade gnocchi, polenta chips and panna cotta: Italian to the nth degree and cruelty free. The pasta is made in house every day, and the negroni’s are exceptional.
Set in a converted bowling club in Sydney’s inner-West, with long wooden tables set amongst the vegetable gardens, Acre Eatery completely embodies ‘farm to table’. The menu changes often: using produce from the on-site gardens and local farmers and producers to capitalize on the ever evolving bounty of the seasons. Acre also runs events throughout the year – from baking competitions to fermenting workshops.
All you can eat Indian food and a cushion-filled cinema: nuff said. Govinda’s is your go-to for a low-key night in Sydney. Fill up on curries, pakoras and kofta balls in the upstairs restaurant before heading to the cinema, where cushions and sofas stretch out in front of the big screen. The Sydney institution has been offering plant-based dinners and a comfy cinema setting for almost forty years, and although the movie options are diverse (Govinda’s screens new releases alongside classics), the ethos is always on-brand: an oasis of zen in Sydney’s buzzy Darlinghurst. As well as movies and flavorsome, wholesome food, Govinda’s offers mantra workshops and meditations.
Newtown’s King Street has earned the title “eat street” due to its endless range of restaurants, so to remain constantly busy – with tables overflowing onto the street on a daily basis – is an achievement not many restaurants can manage. Golden Lotus is one of them. The vegan Vietnamese restaurant is always heaving for good reason: the laksa (an enormous bowl of steaming, aromatic goodness) is legendary, and the bao buns are an unbelievable blend of fluffy and dense which defy the laws of logic. If you have room, head two minutes down the street for gelato from plant-based ice-cream parlor Gelato Blue.
The Sydney branch of this not-for-profit vegetarian restaurant chain is a beautiful example of community in Sydney’s young, creative Inner West. Lentil As Anything operates a pay what you can policy, and is driven by the philosophy that “everyone deserves a place at the table…to entertain or be entertained by one another’s skills or quirks.” Harnessing seasonal produce and the kindness of volunteers, Lentil As Anything serves wholesome breakfasts, soy chai tea and three course dinners, accessible to all due to the kindness of the Sydney community. As well as serving delicious and creative vegetarian and vegan food, Lentil As Anything runs yoga and meditation classes, art classes and workshops, for which (as with the food) they ask customers to donate whatever they can.
Since opening their first cafe/ restaurant in Bronte inspired by a trip around the world, the friends and business partners behind Three Blue Ducks have well and truly delivered on their mission to “cook with good mates, enjoy nature and put a smile on people’s faces”. Now with outposts in Byron Bay and Brisbane as well as their two Sydney locations, the Three Blue Ducks team are clearly achieving more than their simple ethos suggests. Walk past the Bronte cafe any day of the week and you’ll see the tables outside filled with Sydneysiders catching up over fair trade coffee and wholesome food. With a focus on serving “honest, real food,” Three Blue Ducks isn’t exclusively plant based, but considers myriad factors – from food miles to packaging methods – to ensure that their produce is sustainably sourced. If you can’t make it for breakfast, lunch or dinner, swing by at happy hour for a $10 Aperol spritz and some signature spiced carrot dip.
This plant-adorned, pink-chaired restaurant in the coastal suburb of Vaucluse is more than an Instagrammers dream: it’s genuinely embodying a farm to table ethos. For the seasonally changing menus, produce is sourced (when possible) from the on-site garden and the restaurant’s 65 acre farm just outside of the city. Elaborate cocktails are made using house-made gin and botanicals straight from the herb patch, and the holistic Soul Spa is just a short wander through the gardens from your table.
In February 2016, the founders of popular contemporary restaurant Yellow relaunched their menu to be entirely vegetarian, and haven’t looked back. With weekly seven course tasting menus, an a la carte menu featuring dishes like macadamia tofu and honeydew sorbet and an extensive wine list of organic and biodynamic wines, Yellow is Sydney’s answer to vegetarian fine dining.
Two Chaps has got toned down, unpretentious hospitality down to a tee. This Marrickville cafe and restaurant synergizes the Italian approach to food (as a celebration, a point of connection) and Aussie brunch culture with Asian influence: think kimchi burgers in charcoal buns followed by long evenings filled with homemade pasta and conversation. The Mediterranean-inspired menu is totally vegetarian, with a creative range of brunch dishes served throughout the day and an Italian-inspired set evening menu changing weekly. With exposed brickwork and push-bikes mounted on the walls, the decor perfectly reflects the laid-back, effortless ethos. The focus is on wholesome, natural, vegetarian food made from scratch, and the Two Chaps commitment to their cause has arguably earned them the position as Marrickville’s favorite cafe (as attested to by Broadsheet, The Culture Trip and Concrete Playground to name a few).
UMU calls itself ‘Bondi’s most iconic plant based eatery…a place of natural nourishment’, and that just about covers it. Formerly named Earth Food Store, the beachside wholefoods store and cafe has been providing Sydneysiders with nutrient-dense, naturally sourced foods since 1991. The famous UMU omelette and house baked quiches and cakes which emerge from the oven throughout the morning have garnered UMU a dedicated local following.
The low-lit underground bar which sits beneath one of Sydney’s best fine dining restaurants is almost excessively sexy: the fact that it takes sustainability seriously too only adds to the allure. The creative cocktails are made using local botanicals and house made syrups (from surplus fruit discarded from the kitchen), and the high-end bar menu uses seasonal, locally sourced produce.
A short walk from Bondi beach, The Shop manages to meet the standards of the discerning Bondi crowd while keeping strictly to admirable sustainability standards. This hole-in-the-wall cafe and bar is always buzzing with the energy of a local favorite: baristas know their customers by name, and serve locally sourced coffee in reusable takeaway cups, with a serious focus on reducing waste. Open daily from 6am until 10pm, The Shop serves breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner, with everything from mayonnaise to the hummus made on site. Happy hour runs from 3pm until 6pm every day, with organic Australian wines and beers for just $6.
Founded by curator and creative Tara Bennett, Provider store is a treasure trove of well-made, sustainable homewares. Stepping in to the Surry Hills store, Tara’s eye for beautiful minimalist design is immediately apparent: Japanese design ceramic cups (from Tara’s on-site studio) form perfect stacks, and hand painted cushions fit perfectly between wooden shelves. Drawing inspiration from the Japanese approach to design and durability, Tara built Provider store on the premise that precious things should be made to last.
Built upon the values of sustainability, fun, and an appreciation of beautiful clothes, SWOP allows shoppers to exchange preloved clothes for cash or store credit. By accepting and encouraging donations and supporting local makers, SWOP promotes sustainable shopping: reducing waste and elongating the lifetimes of our clothes.
Ask a trendy Sydneysider where they got their vintage tee or statement sunglasses, and they’ll likely tell you Glebe Markets. Every Saturday morning, the schoolground of the Inner West suburb fills with stands from vintage stores, boutique brands and locals casting off their vintage shirts and dresses. Get there early for the gems, and stop for vegan brunch after at Glebe’s Gathered Kitchen.
With twelve Aesop stores across the city, and local makers selling beautiful organic products at markets from The Rocks to Balmain, Sydney isn’t short on high-end, ethical toiletries. There’s something about Bondi Wash though – the uniquely Australian scents, the minimal, plant-adorned stores, the name – that sets Bondi Wash apart. After gaining a market of dedicated online customers (primarily across Asia), this Sydney based botanicals brand opened its first store in Bondi (appropriately) in 2016, and has since opened a further store on Paddington’s popular Oxford Street. With their beautiful, very Australian branding, the home, body and lifestyle products (all made using natural ingredients and scented with Australian botanicals) make perfect gifts.
To understand Marrickville Markets, you first have to understand Marrickville: the eclectic suburb in Sydney’s Inner West. This gentrified industrial heartland is now home to Sydney’s creative scenes: warehouse workshops, creative collectives and more organic coffee shops than people (almost). Marrickville Organic Markets take over Marickville’s Addison Road Centre every Saturday from 9am to 3pm, with vegan pastries, crystals and locally made raw honey all in one place. Come for the organic local produce, stay for the pony rides, tarot readings and natural wines.
In 2016, friends and design enthusiasts Loren Morton and Kristie Keith opened Commune: a shrine to their favorite handcrafted, locally made things. Thankfully for them (and for Sydney) their taste in organic linen, handmade jewellery and minimalist homewares is shared by many, and the store has gone from strength to strength. The light-filled, white-washed space on Bondi’s Glenayre Avenue stocks a beautiful selection of locally made accessories, clothing, furniture and homeware – hand curated not only for their design, but for the ethos behind their production.
Milk & Thistle is a much loved boutique in Sydney’s Inner West, stocking easy-fit designs from owner and designer Danielle Atkinson. Danielle and her team of dressmakers work from a local studio, creating timeless designs – t-shirt dresses and wide-leg linen pants – from ethically sourced, organic fabrics.
Sydney is home to a few bulk food stores leading the waste-free revolution, but the one with the best range of dairy free chocolates gets my vote, and that would have to be Naked Foods. Fill paper bags with nuts, seeds, legumes and granola, and stock up on natural soaps and beauty products in reusable containers. If you’re in Sydney on the first Monday of the month, sign up to become a member for 20% off everything.
This inspiring Melbourne born start-up launched in Sydney in January 2020, and is revolutionizing the way we drink our coffee. The founders of the keep-cup subscription platform noticed the fundamental flaw in the ‘own your own keep cup’ model: that keep-cup owners always forget them. Noa and Parker harnesses modern technology, using an app and chip system to allow users to borrow keep cups, and drop them off as and when they remember. Members have access to a stock of beautiful ceramic keep-cups (hand crafted in Sydney), which they can borrow from and drop off at participating cafes across the city.
This rooftop gym and wellness studio is one part of the Paramount empire: a string of Sydney venues which beautifully synergize sustainability and style. Since opening in April 2018, Paramount Recreation Club has been defined by its commitment to promoting physical, mental and social health. Highly skilled trainers run small group classes and personal training from the airy studio, the open-air kiosk serves simple, earthy food and Swedish massages are available on-site. Events at PRC range from weekly Locals Markets (every Saturday from 8:30am-12:00pm) to a two day mental wellbeing festival: tarot readings, acupuncture and an alcohol-free cocktail bar included. The introductory offer costs $15 for fifteen days, giving you access to up to two group classes per day.
The fact that Bondi Meditation Centre – a tranquil, light-filled space, all bamboo floors and gentle, muted tones – sits on the corner of the main road to Bondi is a perfect reflection of the centre’s grounded, practical approach to meditation. A meditation that accepts the reality of the world we live in, and seeks to facilitate peace and transcendence in line with the (sometimes less than peaceful) material world we interact with. Listen to just five minutes of the Very Vedic podcast, and you’ll get some idea of the unique energy and ability of Bondi Meditation Centre founder Matt Ringrose: the capacity to synergize the ethereal elements of Vedic philosophy with everyday life. With a background in business and the music industry, Matt’s relatable approach appeals across the board, not just to the already converted to the Vedic approach to life. Since receiving the highest standard of training in Vedic Meditation, Matt has taught over 1,000 students. Matt now runs weekly Vedic meditation courses from the Bondi centre, along with retreats across Australia and the world. Four day meditation courses comprise four ninety minute sessions, and once students have trained, Matt promises lifelong support and access to group meditations, knowledge sessions and events.
The second outpost of Yoga studio/ wholefoods cafe Egg of the Universe is worthy of a mention not only for its exceptional teachers, but for its holistic commitment to sustainability- through everything from its architecture to its seasonal menu. Located on the ground floor of a state-of-the-art, six green star rated tower in South Eveleigh business precinct, Egg of the Universe is powered by rooftop solar panels, and was built using sustainably sourced materials. The decor is minimal to the nth degree: the complete lack of decoration almost aggressively relaxing. Classes run throughout the day in the wood-paneled studio, and the on-site wholefoods cafe serves a varied and non-restrictive menu, catering for all dietary requirements and celebrating the ethos of “the art of healing with cake”. The introductory offer costs $40, and gives unlimited access to classes for two weeks.
With studios in Bondi, Redfern, Surry Hills and Potts Point, chances are that if you’re in Sydney, you’re not far from a Body Mind Life. The studio spaces are all high-end zen: sleek, minimal design, organic toiletries and endless herbal tea. Classes include Yoga, Pilates and Meditation, and run from 6am. The all inclusive intro pass costs $108 and gives you access to unlimited classes for 28 days.
Compared with the many sleek, stylized studios in Sydney – particularly in the expensive Eastern Suburbs – Manumission is refreshingly low-key. From the top floor of an old Paddington townhouse, expertly trained teachers run simple, traditional classes embracing the eight limbs of traditional Yoga. The ethos is entirely accessible and unpretentious, truly reflecting the Yogic philosophy of Ahimsa: kindness, compassion and non-judgemental awareness. Through a range of Vinyasa, Yin, Hatha and Restorative classes, the Manumission team encourage practitioners to explore their own path, all having taken inspiration from the Sivananada teachings. The introductory offer costs $65 for 30 days of unlimited Yoga.
Along with the incredibly aesthetically pleasing interiors and unlimited coconut water, it’s the hum of Humming Puppy which sets it apart. The meditative, soothing sound which emanates throughout the building is a special engineering feature, designed to enhance Yoga practice and meditation. The harmonious frequencies (40 hertz and 7.3hertz,) which sound continuously throughout the room are designed to align the vibrational fields of practitioners. The introductory offer gives you unlimited classes for three weeks for just $70 (which you’ll make back within two classes).
Thankfully for the people of Sydney (and for weary travelers, stiff from the always endless flight), the city is home to myriad well priced massage parlous. For a truly restorative massage experience though, head to Nature’s Energy. The holistic day spas, located in beautiful tranquil spaces across Sydney, offer a huge range of treatments and sell everything for your self care requirements: from crystals to herbal tea to meditation spray. The Nature’s Energy spas are also home to unique bath houses: oases of regeneration with hot and cold spas, eucalyptus steam rooms and Swedish saunas. Treatments range from waxing to spiritual healings, so the world holistic is entirely appropriate.
Sights & Experiences
This stretch of parkland in Sydney’s eastern suburbs was officially opened in 1888, and has remained an oasis ever since. Boating lakes, cycle paths, shady picnic spots: Centennial has every perfect park cliche, and is just a fifteen minute drive from the CBD.
Bondi to Manly Walk
While Sydney’s cafe culture is incredible, its community kind, and its choice of yoga studios extensive, it’s hard to deny that it’s the beautiful harbour and myriad magical beaches and secluded swimming spots that sets this city apart. The recently opened Manly to Bondi walk connects Sydney’s two most famous beaches via an 80km walking track that hugs the stunning coast, passing rocky coves and stretches of sandy shoreline.
Tippled is a cocktail making masterclass which harnesses Australian botanicals and foraged ingredients for very unique workshops: shake Mentha Australis with locally made gin on an inner-city rooftop, and toast your new mixology abilities as the sun sets over the city.
Our Contributor: Winnie Stubbs
This post was contributed by Winnie Stubbs, who left her job in luxury travel PR in London for a simpler, sunnier way of life in Sydney. Winnie focuses on writing about sustainable travel, and has contributed to Bouteco, Executive Destinations and Broadsheet. Winnie currently works for The Conscious Space: an interactive community connecting ethical brands with mindful consumers. The Conscious Space is launching its first three day event in Sydney this March. You can find The Conscious Space on Instagram @theconsciousspace, and Winnie at @winnie.e.stubbs