Inside Citizen.MDW: a café for the circular economy

Can one think of Melbourne without thinking of coffee? It’s far from breaking news that Melburnians can’t get enough of the stuff. What is perhaps less known, however, is how a humble cup of coffee can change the world. Citizen, a pop-up café created for Melbourne Design Week 2020, set out to prove how a coffee outlet can support a circular economy and promote sustainability.

Citizen brought together a collaborators from a range of industries to ensure that no element of the project was overlooked. One of Citizen’s more obvious sustainable features is its roof, formed by using 118 solar panels that generated electricity to power café operations. Three 13.5kWh Tesla off-grid power walls were mounted to the scaffold, storing electricity to supply continuous power to the pavilion. All equipment was extensively reviewed and assessed for electrical load and operations were adapted to work within the capacity of the solar panels. As a result, the kibosh was put on the power-hungry dishwasher and patrons were asked to supply their own cups instead, eliminating waste from single-use cups.

Materials were selected to match the project’s environmentally-minded ethos. The walls were repurposed milk crates tied with hemp; the counter was built from recycled plastic sheet including flaked milk cartons. The pavilion collected non-potable rainwater from the roof through a central gutter that ran into IBC 1000-litre collection vessels and mushrooms grown from coffee waste were on display.

Code Black Coffee covered the all-important equipment and beans, roasted in Brunswick and generally sourced directly from growers in South and Central America. Once the beans had served their purpose, coffee grounds were collected into bins and used by Reground for composting, mushroom farming and worm farms throughout Melbourne.

The duration of Citizen concluded sooner than planned due to pandemic (March 12 – 18), however its afterlife was considered. All the built elements were designed to be repurposed, or are elements that can be used again and again. Even the mushrooms on display were returned to compost when they’d breathed their last.


ZWEI Interiors Architecture
Four Season Commercial Interiors
Finding Infinity
Mushroom Forestry
Sustainable Living Fabrics
Design Flow Plastics
RPM Pipes
Lighting Spaces
Mr Scaffold

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