Different roads to sustainability for Coffs Coast businesses

Local business representatives share their sustainability stories.


ACCORDING to Kim Towner, sustainable businesses have a feeling for their community and a feeling for their team.

Kim is well known in Coffs Harbour as the owner of The Happy Frog and the impetus behind the Harbourside Markets.

Ohana Early Learning Centres Pty LimitedAdvertise with News of The Area today.
It’s worth it for your business.
Message us.
Phone us – (02) 4981 8882.
Email us – [email protected]

She said, “If you’re concerned about sustainability, climate change, a fairer world, you need a social conscience.”

Kim recently joined Julie O’Donnell from Let Them Play Toys, Peter Richardson from Faircloth and Reynolds, Nathan Begley from Upstream Energy and Richie Dolan from the The Hilltop Store at the second Festival of New Thinking symposium, run by 6 Degrees, an initiative of the Coffs Harbour City Council.

Titled ‘Sustainability is (Im)Possible’, the evening featured the local business representatives on a discussion panel and a keynote talk from Alicia Cameron, business owner and founder of Plastic Free Port Stephens.

Each business representative highlighted slightly different aspects of sustainability.

For Ms Towner, it is about buying from local producers, for Ms O’Donnell, using renewable materials, for Mr Richardson, recycling, for Mr Begley renewable energy and for Mr Dolan, minimising waste.

Julie O’Donnel of Let Them Play Toys shared that she began to make toys that connect children with nature from branches trimmed from trees around Coffs Harbour.

She and her husband, Steve, make ‘tree people’, which all are different, to reflect that we are all unique and none of us are perfect.

She stressed that her ethos is not about what she is selling, but why.

Peter Richardson of Faircloth and Reynolds told the audience that the refrigeration, air conditioning and catering equipment specialists had been recycling for more than a decade.

He said that only 10% of old systems can’t be recycled, but the company is aiming for 100%.

He also talked about energy-efficient appliances often being more expensive initially, but that they are cheaper in the long run.

Richie Dolan from The Hilltop Store discussed food waste in the hospitality industry.

He said that it cost more, initially, to be sustainable, but cost could be decreased with experience.

After spending time building relationships locally with suppliers, he buys whole animals and uses all of them.

Nathan Begley, Upstream Energy, said that people can be more than 100% sustainable with solar power.

He said that, by the end of the decade, electricity will be revenue for businesses, not an expense item on balance sheets.

Alicia Cameron talked about her journey as a business owner and founder of Plastic Free Port Stephens.

She shared that she realised, after returning from a trip to Africa that “We have so much stuff!”

She said that being in business from her early 20’s, her focus was on making money, but now her approach is about giving.

A quote from Robert Swan motivated her to move into the non-profit space, ‘The greatest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it’.

She said that she initially participated in clean ups with other organisations but she wanted to be proactive rather than reactive.

Ms Cameron said that Plastic Free Port Stephens began with fifteen people and has grown to a community non-profit with 800 people.

Her organisation is involved in projects such as ‘Port Stephens’ branded aluminium drink bottles, encouraging the use of ‘keep’ coffee cups, Planet Warrior’s Plastic Pollution Education program for primary school students and the elimination of single-use food packaging from schools, businesses, and events.

She talked about “Little steps, big impact” and the need for the community to seek partnerships with like-minded organisations.

More information about Plastics Free Port Stephens can be found at plasticfreeportstephens.com.au/.


By Andrew VIVIAN


Alicia Cameron shares about Plastic Free Port Stephens.

Leave a Reply