We look at the most eco-friendly businesses on the Gold Coast and see what they’re giving back to the community…
“When I saw this site for the first time, I knew this could be the best health retreat in Australia, maybe the world,” Gwinganna founder Tony de Leede always had high hopes for his award-winning retreat, set on 200 hectares in the Tallebudgera Valley. But humans weren’t the only ones set to score big. Gwinganna was designed as much as a haven for the Gold Coast’s native animals. The only health retreat in Queensland with an Eco-Certification, the retreat works with Land 4 Wildlife and Wildcare Australia to provide a home for rescued and sick animals from all over the Gold Coast. Wallabies eat by your back door, while koalas sleep in the trees above – some were transported to the property to live lives as pampered as guests. And your meals come from the largest organic gardens of any retreat in Australia, just outside the restaurant. Guests learn the secrets of the perfect organic garden so they can grow their own food at home and help the environment.
You’ll have to dig very deep to find a fashion business in Australia as committed to the environment as Burleigh Heads’ Peony Swimwear. It’s become a highly successful boho label – but what motivated owner (and former criminal lawyer) Becky Jack most was a concern for the environment, after growing up in some of the most pristine environment in Australia in Queensland. The fashion industry has long had a poor environmental record, but Peony Swimwear give back to the environment and the Gold Coast community by ensuring every swimwear piece they design is made from recycled and sustainable fabrics. Since 2019, 100 percent of their swimwear fabrics have been made from recycled content (from 26 percent in 2018). Even their packaging is compostable and their garment bags are made of things like wheat that also break down into compost. And when you don’t want to wear your swimmers any more, they’ll recycle them for you.
Sick of all the chemical fumes you usually smell at the hairdressers, Gold Coast-based Zanzi Hairdressing decided to open a salon using nothing but sustainable products – and 95 percent of these get rescued from landfill and are sent for repurposing and recycling. The proceeds go towards cleaning up oil spills on the Great Barrier Reef. Even your hair isn’t wasted, it’s donated to Variety Australia to make wigs for cancer patients in the area. Zanzi is part of a development in Tugun that was initiated by third and fourth generation locals. Cornerstone Stores has won community awards since its inception in 2017 – businesses within it like Zanzi operate with sustainability and community front-of-mind, where local events are held in an environmentally innovative building that blends into the surrounding bushland (Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary is right next door).
Long-time Currumbin Valley locals Peter and Jan Fleming have spent the past 13 years sharing the joys of home-grown organic and biodynamic produce with the Gold Coast. Drive out to the end of the Valley and you’ll find their market gardens and café. Come in and pick spray-free produce – or buy produce from organic, biodynamic farmers of the area, whose products they stock. “There’s not too many farmers left but we make sure we support them,” owner Peter Flemings says. “It’s just a nice place for families to come so kids can learn that fruit and vegetables are grown, they don’t just turn up in the supermarket.” Fleming also sells water from a spring that runs right under the property, while the café serves fresh-made treats, just beside a creek on the property.
On her days off, you might catch Abigail King-Nunes on a beach clean with Plastic Free Gold Coast. When she’s working, she’s also doing her best to make a difference to the environment at the café she owns in Mermaid Beach, Ocean 4218. There’s a surfie sort of vibe there, regulars share her love of the ocean and appreciate efforts she makes to save their oceans, one coffee at a time. It was on a trip to the Great Barrier Reef that Abigail decided to start Ocean 4218. She saw a plastic spoon drop from her boat right next to turtles. Ocean 4218 is 100 percent plastic-free, all single-use takeaway items are compostable, with all paper products derived from renewable sugar cane, while a percentage of the profits go to ocean protection groups.
Heartfill was the passion project of a former Gold Coast teacher who wanted to create a sustainable and ethical creative space to share with her fellow Gold Coasters. Corinne Russel wanted locals to have a place where they could shop sustainably, avoiding mass-produced products. Located in Burleigh Heads, it’s a collection of shops in one creative space, where everything in every shop is sourced from local creative people. This funky space also doubles as a creative workshop space for the community to use, and people can also watch people create their products. While the intention was all about sustainability and mindful consuming, the vibe is all vintage and quirk. Saving the environment feels pretty hip on the Gold Coast.
Surf clubs are as much a part of the Gold Coast as the beaches themselves. Nowhere in Australia has what we do – there’s a surf club built on every good beach on the Gold Coast – and you won’t find a better sea view anywhere. But Palm Beach Surf Club offers a lot more than that. Built right on the beach, it’s set out to do everything it can to protect the ocean it sits beside – and to educate the community while it does it. It’s the first surf club in Australia to be awarded Ocean Friendly certification from the Surfrider Foundation by using no styrofoam, plastic straws, single-use plastics and introducing recycling initiatives. It also brings the community together to encourage conservation in free events held on-site and holds environmental workshops for kids with marine biologists.
Gold Coaster James Bartle – CEO and founder of fashion brand Outland Denim – is a man in demand. He was a tradie with a social conscience when he decided he’d learn to make jeans 15 years ago. He went to Cambodia and started a jeans company that would revolutionise the industry – by employing women who’d suffered human rights abuses (in an industry known for exploitation). So far he’s helped over 750 women. Now his flagship store is on the Gold Coast and he’s committed to making the fashion world a lot more environmentally conscious. He uses organic cotton (which uses 91 percent less water to produce), doesn’t use harmful chemicals, uses less energy and sources only sustainable raw materials. The company’s been a massive commercial success, but James is proudest of his environmental and human rights work.