May 9, 2014
Recognised by his big, blonde beard, blue eyes and positive spirits, Benjamin Garnaut last year established Higher Grounds, a coffee company on a bicycle, together with his friends Matt Crocky and Freddy Parsons.
The idea behind Higher Grounds is to promote sustainability and make people aware that simple, everyday acts can make a difference.
“We tried to use coffee as an example of running a business with less waste and less energy,” Mr Garnaut says over the noise of a working coffee grinder.
“Interactions on a daily basis can just convince people that it’s the future, rather than scaring everyone and being like, ‘you can’t do this’.”
Prototype 2, which is currently in the making, will look quite similar, but be different in its structure and functionality. Ultimately, the dream is to build a rickshaw that can carry everything around and be powered by solar energy.
“We will be able to ride it probably five kilometres or something like that,” Mr Garnaut says.
“It will be fully self contained, powered by itself and not have to plug in.”
The three guys had a desire to experiment with sustainability and whether the business could could support three people at all.
Additionally, ridding people of prejudice regarding sustainability in showing that it is indeed possible to get a good quality cup of coffee at a reasonable price has been one of Higher Ground’s biggest priorities.
“Coffee drinkers are very fickle,” Mr Garnaut says.
“If they decide that they don’t like your coffee they won’t come back so that would defeat the purpose.
“We try and keep the highest possible quality but still within the sustainable levels, so we don’t feel like we’re sacrificing anything to support it, and trying to keep the price reasonable as well.”
With the ambition of becoming completely carbon neutral, Higher Grounds has had to be involved in every step of its coffee making, down to every lid of every coffee cup.
“We’re trying to basically have zero waste and the waste that we do have we try to compost,” Mr Garnaut says.
David Pannell from the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of Western Australia says that what the three men are doing is important.
“I believe that grass roots businesses such as Higher Grounds are getting increasingly important and doesn’t get the attention it deserves,” Profesor Pannell says.
“Environmental friendly does not necessarily have to mean complicated and expensive.
“It’s more about finding the alternatives.”