Garbage sorting. Organic food waste from vegetable ready for recycling in compost bin on blue backgrond. Top view. Sustainable and zero waste living. Environmentally responsible behavior, ecology concept.

The Environment Wins at Apple Annie’s Cafe

It’s the everyday practical things that each of us do to protect and preserve our environment that truly make a difference. “Local Heroes” is a series of articles recognizing the efforts that individuals, businesses and organizations are doing, here in the Orillia area. Sustainable practices, that when carried out consistently, over time, make a positive difference.

The COVID-19 pandemic has put extra pressure on all of Orillia’s bars and restaurants. Reduced customer traffic, additional public health requirements and increased costs are not a profitable economic formula and it would be easy, and understandable for many to forego some of the extra steps associated with sustainability. To their credit, the overwhelming number of Orillia restaurants have stayed the course and today’s Local Heroes is pleased to present a short piece on how Apple Annie’s Café and Shop have continued to honour their long-time commitment to sustainable practices through these challenging times.

Nancy and Susan Willsey in front of Apple Annie's CafeLocated on Mississauga Street, Apple Annie’s Café and Shop is one of Orillia’s favourite destinations for great, really great food, specialty foods, kitchenware, gifts and let’s not forget the fudge. All served up in a warm, eclectic space, featuring local art and great service. Most of the cafe’s menu is made ‘right from scratch’ on-site, where co-owners, Nancy and Susan Willsey have mastered minimizing waste over the past twelve years.

“We’ve always practiced recycling and composting – right from the start” says Nancy. “Waste is separated at the source during food preparation… and everyone on the team is engaged and trained on how to do it properly” says Nancy. Waste bins are organized, labeled and adjacent to every workstation. In addition to their composting efforts, Apple Annie’s take-out packaging is compostable and prior to the need for COVID-19 precautions, those bringing in their own coffee mugs and/or take-out containers received a discount at the cash. The tableware in the café is all local pottery and the majority of the shop inventory is Canadian-made, further reducing costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

Pretty picket fence hiding compost binsLike most of their counterparts, Nancy and Susan have had to adapt their business model since the onset of the pandemic. They have however steadfastly maintained their sustainability practices. Before the pandemic, their green and blue bins were lined up at the back entranceway; a visual testimony to their commitment to recycling and composting. Since the pandemic – with the imaginative help of their neighbours, Bill and Linda Tiffin, Apple Annie’s bins are now tucked away behind a white picket fence, adding some character and providing much needed space for patio seating outside their rear entrance. Although it adds more steps to their process, both Apple Annie’s customers and the environment continue to be winners with this new arrangement.

Back entrance of Apple Annie's with patio tableBefore the pandemic, Susan and Nancy had even considered partnering with a local farmer, to divert some of their composting for pig food. “It’s a little extra work”, but I’d rather have it go there, than even into composting…” says Nancy; while Susan adds that …”a goat would be good too!”. A creative possibility that is currently on hold as current business conditions prevent them from pursuing this and other innovative ideas the two sisters have to reduce and redirect waste from all areas of their operation. We’re sure that when the dust settles and we emerge into a post-COVID-19 world, they’ll be flexing their imaginations once again.

So, hats off to Local Heroes, and to Susan and Nancy Willsey for their long-term commitment to best environmental processes. And who knows, someday soon there may be a very lucky pig nearby, playing his or her part in further reducing waste from Apple Annie’s operations.

Sustainable Orillia is always looking for individuals, businesses or organizations who prioritize sustainable practices as part of their everyday routines. If you have a story suggestion that then please contact us c/o ‘’. We look forward to sharing more real-life local examples of initiatives and heroes supporting long-term sustainability… one step at a time, one day at a time.

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