Eco-Friendly Practice: Hayley Morris

By Phoebe Miller This month's eco-friendly profile takes a slightly different turn. In our first few posts, we've focused on creative ladies who operate product-focused creative practices. However, I wanted to acknowledge that there are a lot of creative women out there who are doing other work relating to environmental sustainability that involves a great deal of creativity.

Enter Hayley Morris: Founding Director of Sustainable Table,  an environmental not-for-profit organisation based in Melbourne that uses food as an entree to explore sustainability issues and support environmental projects in developing communities.

You may have already heard of The Sustainable Table Cookbook, a collection of recipes and stories from notable chefs, farmers, producers, winemakers, gardeners and everyday people who are reducing their impact on the environment by altering their food choices. As I discovered in doing this interview, there's a lot more to learn from and be inspired by in Hayley's work than just delicious recipes.

What do you do? I work on two enterprises, one a not-for-profit (Sustainable Table) and the other for-profit social enterprise (Impact Sustainability).

Sustainable Table is a young, innovative organisation that empowers individuals to use their shopping dollar as a vote for a food system that is fair, healthy, humane and good for the environment. We do this by providing knowledge and resources, run innovative and challenging events and harness the media and social media platforms to assist individuals to make conscious decisions about where they shop and what they buy.

We also acknowledge how lucky we are to be living in a country that is generally food secure, so we 'give back' by supporting projects in developing communities that assist with the food security of the community. Projects include building compost toilets in Kenya that improve local, small-scale farming as well as provide basic sanitation in a region where water borne diseases are rift; solar cookers for Tibetan Villages in China; and micro finance to support the development of small-scale agricultural projects in Kenya.

Sustainable Table's solar cooker project  

Impact Sustainability supports businesses to better understand their environmental impact via an affordable and easy-to-use online tool, Impact Management System (IMS).

The system was developed after I had spent time consulting to help companies understand their environmental footprint and ways to reduce it. It was clear that all businesses would find it hard to continue to maintain the actions they had started and improve on their environmental performance if they didn't have a system to help support this process. After all, 'what get's measured, get's managed'.

A market scan showed that the systems on offer were complex and expensive, targeting large companies with complex greenhouse gas emission portfolios. With IMS I wanted to create a system that was simple and affordable and benefited the environment as more companies could afford to take action. In addition a percentage of revenue would be used to support Sustainable Table.

How do you approach sustainability and environmental awareness in your work? We use creative and innovative ideas to educate and empowering individuals and companies to act more environmentally sustainable. We have a strong focus on design, marketing and communications as a way to engage people. I believe this is a real point of difference for Sustainable Table and I think it’s why people have been really engaged with our work.

The Sustainable Table cookbook

Can you tell us about your favourite project to date? The Sustainable Table cookbook is definitely a key project where design and creativity was key in creating a successful book. Our challenge was to try and get people who don’t normally care about the environment to pick up the book, buy it and then learn something about how they can make a difference. In order to ‘hook’ people in we knew we needed the book to look beautiful and work as a functional cookbook. The first edition won Australian printed book of the year, so some people must think we did a good job!

Internal layouts from The Sustainable Table cookbook

Innovative events also form a big part of your work. What events have you held recently? Our Melbourne Food and Wine Festival sell-out event in March, hosted at the Robert Burns Hotel in Collingwood, set to challenge guests with the reality of how meat ends up on their plate. With most Australians eating roughly their own weight in meat each year (80kg) and with more than 500 million animals housed in factory farms, the aim was to raise awareness around the environmental and ethical issues surrounding meat production in Australia, whilst contrasting that with dining on wild rabbit. The event was profiled on ABC’s 7.30 Report and in Broadsheet.

In February this year, we held an event as part of the Sustainable Living Festival. A Dirty Granny Jamming Session was all about preserving excess produce. What do the granny skills of the past have to do with the way of the future? If there's one thing all grannies are good at, it's this - preserving, jamming and bottling excess produce to avoid food waste. These vintage kitchen skills have seen a resurgence in recent times, and their importance cannot be underestimated given Australians throw out $5.2 billion worth of food each year. Our event set to educate people on food waste and provide them with a set of Staples from Scratch recipes to kick-start their zero-waste enthusiasm.

What challenges have you come up against in trying to make your work more sustainable and how did you overcome them? There is definitely a higher cost in making things sustainable, for example we were faced with the question of lowering our printing costs of The Sustainable Table cookbook significantly by printing the book in China, therefore increasing our margins. However it was important to us and the ethos of the book to ensure it was printed locally, on 100% recycled paper and by printing standards that have the least impact on the environment.

Are you inspired by any other creative women? Probably my colleague Cassie Duncan. She is so passionate, creative and inspiring - she is the real heart behind Sustainable Table.

Phoebe Miller is a Brisbane-bred, Sydney-fled, Melbourne-embedded gal who enjoys making, spruiking, collecting, exploring, telling her friends where to eat and posting photos of doors on instagram. After several years working in corporate marketing and communications, Phoebe followed the urge to explore her creative side. These days she divides her time between her sustainable fashion accessories label, Simply Phoebe, and freelance PR consulting.