Reduce Your Waste

When they were founding their café, James and the team at Fools and Horses decided that they wanted to pursue reducing their waste. For them, that means moving most of the waste stream into the compost pile, and away from the landfill. They did their first waste audit two years ago.


“We managed to get 85% of our waste into the compost bin, 10% recycling, and 5% to landfill.” – James Magnus Johnston


This is not an easy task to do, but it was made easier because they already had this in mind when they started their business. Because it didn’t line up with their goals, they never calculated how much non-compostable materials would cost.

Fools and horses started running their business with a triple bottom line. Their focus as a business is on reducing waste and funding green projects, enabling employee ownership, and providing a space for culture and conversation, and paying a living wage while contributing to a prosperous community.


“I don’t feel that you can do business in the 21st century if you can’t minimize your waste and pay your staff well. If I’m going to be in business, those objectives have to be met somehow.” - James Magnus Johnston


The emphasis on reducing waste has meant that they have established the framework that they use to evaluate their decisions. Every aspect of the business must be measured against that overarching goal. This includes the containers they serve their drinks in and the way they accept their materials.

For example, they receive their wine in a keg in order to reduce on shipping materials and cost. In addition, after the kegs are returned to the distributor, they are washed out and reused, further reducing the environmental impact of their operations.

The compost is also something that does not run on its own. They have hired another social enterprise working out of Winnipeg to pick up their compost. That social enterprise then turns it around and sells it to agricultural producers.

Fools and Horses has found a surprising amount of success in a very short period of time. They have recently expanded to the Forks, and they have found new challenges in that space.

The Forks is a destination in the heart of Winnipeg, and has many shops in a cozy indoor mall. Because of the tight density of the shops and the open central seating areas, customers served at this location cannot be given ceramic mugs for their drinks, as they could easily walk away with them. The Forks also does not offer composting pickup for the public in that area.

The team at Fools and Horses has decided that they would continue offering compostable cups at this new location, and that they would bring in their own bin for compost so that their customers can properly dispose of their cups.

This brings us back to one of the other issues of approaching a zero-landfill model. When they did their first waste audit, they found that they had 5% of waste going to the landfill. They have not been able to eliminate this, as they found that people were bringing in outside garbage to their shop.

For a true zero-waste model to work, it will probably take intentional cooperation between many businesses in a small geographical area such as the forks. As more of the disposable options are recyclable or compostable, it will become easier to reduce the amount of landfill waste. 

Strategy is not necessarily simple. The ideas behind them however, can be. The foundation for this element of strategy comes courtesy of my conversation with James Magnus Johnston, which you can hear on the podcast here.