Local stories: Katie Walker, HAH Cafe

Katie Walker – HAH Cafe, Gadubanud Country in Lorne

Katie Walker is one of the owners of HAH Cafe, which sits on Gadubanud Country overlooking Lorne beach. In fact, it is quite literally on the beach and Katie said it was the sight of takeaway coffee cups and other packaging littering the sand after a summer’s day that hardened her resolve to follow sustainable principles. Nowadays she sees those sights less often, although the health measures necessary during the Covid-19 pandemic have been a challenge to navigate sustainably.

In usual (less pandemic-y) circumstances, Katie doesn’t sell takeaway food or drinks in single use packaging. She’s invested in bamboo cups, durable enough to survive a trip along the beach and be returned, a system of honesty that has always worked well. HAH Cafe doesn’t stock any plastic water bottles either, just recyclable, cardboard alternatives. Food scraps are another concerning source of waste but Katie has a connection with the Fig Tree Community House and garden, who have an impressive worm farm which benefits from donations of the day’s leftovers. She said making things in house is another huge waste saver, with all the food sold in the store, bar the artisan croissants, baked, cooked or assembled by staff. This reduces packaging waste and is another way to connect more immediately to the supply chain.

Katie is dedicated to minimising the supply chain in her work. Buying local produce such as meat, cheese, vegetables, coffee and chai is a top priority. The tables and chairs are made with local wood and were built by Leon, Katie’s husband and business partner. A shorter supply chain reduces food miles and also fosters closer relationships between people. The farmers and producers of the food that makes its way into HAH Cafe truly care about where their food ends up. Relationships built around respect for food, the process of its production and its impact on the environment thrive through these intimate connections. Katie speaks of the social connection and satisfaction in sharing these passions.

Katie’s found inspiration and collaboration through local relationships. Her advice to others seeking to make more sustainable choices in their businesses is to take the leap. She said it is worth making bigger investments early, and more drastic and effective changes, and that it is wiser not only from an environmental but a business sense as well. In many cases the extra cost for more sustainable products is lowering due to increasing demand, and investments such as solar will pay their way in time.