The Vegetable Diva: Local, seasonal produce and a vision of a package-free Bristol

The Vegetable Diva is a café in the centre of Bristol. Its founder, Sonya Devi, shares some of the ways she ensures that the business is as sustainable as possible in the blog post below. Sonya has long had a great affinity for and appreciation of food and cooking, and with a mixed Indian and Dutch heritage was exposed to many different cuisines from a young age.

At The Vegetable Diva my team and I lovingly cook vegetarian dishes and sweet treats, that don’t cost the earth in their creation. I have tried to build a café with a green ethos, which consciously aims to minimise its carbon footprint, and we’re therefore delighted to support Bristol’s ambition to be a Gold Sustainable Food City. Whenever possible, we source local and seasonal ingredients and this is reflected in our ever-changing menu, which fluctuates with the seasons. We believe that local, fresh and seasonal produce is better for us and the environment. As such, we grow our own vegetables and fruit, at ‘Diva No-Digs’ in Burrington. This is a 4-acre plot which uses a ‘no-dig’ method of cultivation to supply the café with seasonal goodness. Through trial and error, we have found that the ‘no-dig’ approach is the most efficient way to produce great tasting vegetables and simultaneously build soil health and structure. 

We aim to keep things as simple as possible, by providing healthy, nutritious food that customers can either eat in or take away. In the café, there are Tiffin boxes that are available to rent or buy, in which customers can take breakfast/brunch/lunch or even dinner away. We also like to encourage customers to bring their own reusable boxes and cups and we will happily fill any container that a customer brings in. It’s been fantastic to see people accepting these changes and supporting our mission of going packaging-free – hopefully the Going for Gold bid can help this become more widespread. As with anything, we are also doing this in transition, but every small step helps and it’s wonderful to see customers already getting behind the no-packaging movement and incorporating re-use habits.  

In addition, we use power from renewable resources, when able and have ensured that the building is properly insulated, as this helps to reduce fuel cost and usage (when needing to heat or cool the café). The interior of the café has been decorated with art from local Somerset artist Natascha Clutterbuck, as why look elsewhere else when there is so much talent on our doorstep! We also serve delicious Clifton Coffee that has been roasted at the Clifton Coffee site, just a stone’s throw away.

We would like to see Bristol lead the way in creating a package free take-away culture where carrying a container for your drinks and food is a normal way of life. We also have a vision of a return to open-air or indoor markets to buy food, to re-use and recycle and for people to eat more and a larger variety of plants and even try to grow some vegetables of their own. We hope that The Vegetable Diva can inspire people and other food businesses to start making changes, and that the Going for Gold bid enables us to come together as a city to improve Bristol’s food system for the benefit of all.

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