Even if you don’t watch the sports, it’s easy to appreciate the Rugby World Cup for helping motivate Auckland to finish a whole range of exciting projects. Suddenly our public transport is a bit better (the trains have onboard audio announcements! The new Outer Loop connects my workplace directly with Vinyl coffee shop!) The newly-expanded Art Gallery is open, and all kinds of cultural events are filling in the days between rugby matches.
My favourite new development is Wynyard Quarter. Previously a working industrial wharf, the area is now open to the public, with heritage trams, bars & restaurants, and Silo Park, a beautiful open public area. The development adds a new kind of space to the waterfront, quite different to the Viaduct, and makes the waterfront part of the city feel so much more integrated, accessible and modern to me.
One of the newly-opened businesses at Wynyard Quarter will only be filling its current space for the length of the Rugby World Cup: the HP Wintergarden. The popup café, indoor garden and technology display is a collaboration between HP/Intel, Kokako and a few other local businesses. It was constructed onsite and will be in place until October 23rd.
The Winter Garden’s menu (PDF) includes a few vegan things: pizza slices from Il Buco, fair trade banana bread by Kokako, and an interesting range of cold drinks from small producers, including Hakanoa ginger beer. I think the Kokako salads might be vegan too, but didn’t think to check the ingredients when I visited today.
I had a slice of pizza, some banana bread & a soy flat white. These were all products I’d tried previously, but the Winter Garden was a lovely new setting to enjoy them in. The weather this afternoon was typically Auckland spring – all sudden cold rain and blustery wind cut with blazing sun – and the Winter Garden was a welcome dry place in the middle of it all.
Besides showcasing a range of local food producers, the HP/Intel Winter Garden shows off computing technology. HP will share their free wifi or even lend you a laptop to check your email while you drink coffee. One corner of the garden also includes printers and a digital photo printing machine.
A lot has been said about the Winter Garden in connection with sustainability, and it’s true that the café includes some great environmental initiatives: it’s full of native plants, the coffee is organic, they compost, you can borrow a bike to explore Wynyard Quarter.
So it was a surprise to see the service include so much single-use packaging: food was served on reusable (to a point) cardboard trays with compostable inner plates and a printed paper liner explaining the recycling system in the café. Coffee was served in standard paper takeaway cups with plastic lids, and salads were in single-serve plastic pots. Reuse is almost always a more efficient use of resources than recycling or composting;
I guess I’d feel less sceptical & greenwashed if there was some kind of lifecycle analysis on the use of (branding-friendly) printed paper products versus washable, reusable plates and cups. It would also be interesting to know more about the construction of the space and what will happen to it after the six weeks are up: I wonder if the tent-like structure is designed to be erected again in other locations.
(Edited to add: Mike from Kokako emailed to explain more about the sustainability choices behind this project. The site has very little water supply, so crockery wasn’t an option. Almost all the packaging, including coffee cups, is recycled or composted. The temporary building structure is designed to be used again. They’ve achieved some impressive things, and are committed to making sustainable choices. And next time I visit, I’m taking my KeepCup.)