Simply Green in Ballyshannon is Donegal’s first zero-waste, sustainable coffee shop

The brains behind Donegal café Simply Green, Fiona McIntyre, decided that disposable takeaway cups just wouldn’t be an option. 

“Committing to having no single-use cups was a risk, but when we let people know what we’re up to there has been such a positive reaction, either customers bring their own cup or sit in with us in the cafe,” Fiona says. 

Up to 200 million single use coffee cups are thrown away every year in Ireland. These cups may seem like they are made from paper or cardboard, but in fact they have a layer of plastic over them, making them unsuitable for recycling. 

And yes, some sustainably-minded cafés have introduced compostable versions instead — but many people may not realise that composting is only possible in a controlled environment. If these compostable cups are discarded with regular rubbish, and go to landfill, they will not be able to break down. Compostable items require exposure to certain levels of moisture, oxygen and bacteria to decompose, and conditions at landfills are not suitable. 

And so, when starting Simply Green in the town of Ballyshannon, Fiona decided to take disposable cups out of the equation. Fiona asks her customers to bring their own cup or use one and sit in at the café. They also encourage customers to bring their own lunch boxes for takeaway food. 

“The Ballyshannon community has been so engaged with the cafe and enthusiastic about the zero-waste element of our business. Before we opened I went to all the local businesses to tell them about what Simple Green was trying to achieve and staff from a local charity shop even dropped in crockery and mugs to help out. We’ve had queues out the door because the amazing students of the local secondary school, staff from the banks, chemists and hair salons to name but a few arrive with their Tupperware and lunch boxes to collect their order! Again waste-free.”

Fiona McIntyre

Fiona has put incredible research and planning into ensuring the café is as sustainable as possible. She works with a fantastic supply chain, and considers waste implications of every step.

The cafe’s produce is supplied either by Fiona’s family, White Hill Eco Farm, or locally in the North West of the country. The coffee is fairtrade, ingredients are delivered without plastic and in cardboard boxes which are unloaded and returned for the next delivery. 

Simply Green’s menu is seasonal, altering based on whatever fruit and vegetables are growing – organic beetroot in January, cauliflower florets in February, courgettes in June and fresh tomatoes throughout the summer. 

Simply Green’s bread is also fully vegan plus they have an array of gluten-free, vegan savoury and sweet options on the menu each week. Every taste and dietary requirement is catered for by Fiona and the team.

The shop supplies plastic-free alternatives and refills for liquids and dried grain foods. 

Follow Simply Green on Instagram here.