Our long-awaited spring is just weeks away and if that has you keen to get growing, be inspired with a visit to one of Victoria’s favourite restaurants, turning food scraps into an inviting urban food garden open to all.
Last fall, Big Wheel Burger’s flagship location in the Cook Street Village created a community garden and seating area from unused boulevard space. Designed by Smart+Barman and built by Biophilia design collective using permeable pavers and reclaimed cedar, the garden will grow herbs and other edibles this spring with compost created from the restaurant’s food waste.
The sustainable project
“This was basically an unused boulevard maintained by the city. Now, for five years, we’ll maintain something that’s useful and beautiful,” McNeil says.
“We created it for the community, and the community can come sit there – it’s not just for Big Wheel customers.”
The space also offers learning opportunities, with coming signage to showcase the composting circle – herbs and veggies growing in compost crafted from Big Wheel Burger’s own kitchen organics and 100-per-cent-compostable packaging.
“It’s an educational tool,” says McNeil, a founding member of FED – the Food Eco District, committed to creating a carbon neutral community, beginning with restaurants.
“What better way to get some fresh air, sit and socialize and discover the possibilities of urban food gardening?”
A $5,000 boulevard improvement grant from the Fairfield Gonzales Community Association and the City of Victoria supported the $28,000 project, with Big Wheel providing the balance.
“It’s a talking point, it’s education for kids and bringing awareness,” McNeil says, noting all three Big Wheel locations also feature FED Eco Planter Boxes filled with herbs and greens.
The sustainable business model
Regularly named one of the region’s favourite burger joints, the locally grown Big Wheel Burger was founded on the “triple bottom line” philosophy of social, environmental and economic performance.
“I never knew it would be so affordable and good for our business to be sustainable,” McNeil says. “You can actually turn something that was potentially a waste-driven business into one that does something more and is valuable to the community.”
The results of a business decision aren’t always clear up front, but entrepreneurs often demonstrate a willingness to take chances, McNeil notes, challenging others to join the discussion of environmental and social sustainability.
“There’s a perception that social issues and business are at odds, but they don’t need to be,” McNeil says, pointing to the resources, creativity and progressive attitude business often brings to the table.
“It’s business and we need to prosper, but many entrepreneurs are looking for creative ways to help. There’s an ally there,” McNeil says. “We’re all in this together.”