THE SWEET TASTE OF A CIRCULAR ECONOMY

How can a plant-based ice cream shop in Wynwood influence a sustainable movement for small businesses?


By Sofia Zuniga



When you buy ice cream, do you ever think about the impact that one scoop can have on the environment?


From the contents of the ice cream to the packaging, your purchase can have a bigger effect than you expected.


Founded by Ola Kayal in 2019, Nabati Ice Cream aspires to be completely waste-free and is taking action both in their store and in their community.


The yellow corner shop on NW 25th street is an ideal example of a small business carrying out the circular economy concept, moving away from the outdated, linear -- “take, make, dispose” -- model and shifting toward "reducing, reusing, recycling, and sharing" initiatives.


More Flavors - Less Waste


Ola eliminates as much food waste as possible by using every aspect of an ingredient. For example, after making their own almond milk, they use the dehydrated leftovers to make almond flour for their baking. Reincorporating waste products into production or the end product is the key element of a circular economy.


“As a young entrepreneur, I feel kind of responsible to whatever I create has to have a good impact not just on our bodies and what we eat, but also on the environment,” stated Ola.


Nabati, meaning “plant-based” in Arabic, offers 18 ice cream flavors such as Rose Goji Pistachio and Vanilla Mango Almond. Ola does not use any animal products, instead she blends cashews and coconuts for most of their ice cream bases. Nabati also offers nut-free bases, which are made from fruits and coconut milk. They also sweeten their ice cream with dates and maple syrup.


According to the United Nations FAO report, the livestock industry generates more greenhouse gas emissions than transport, it drives deforestation, pollutes water, degrades land and more.


“Whether it's the methane sources, or just deforestation and animal cruelty in all senses together, avoiding using any dairy or eggs helps me elimate contribution to this,” Ola emphasized.


Rethink Packaging


Nabati still offers biodegradable single-use containers for customers but Ola encourages customers to bring their own containers whether they’re looking to bring home a pint or stop in for a single treat; if a customer brings their own reusable container, they receive a 5% discount. She hopes to establish a return program soon, too.


Ola purchases all her raw materials in bulk to reduce packaging. She reuses any packaging they are given, such as Ziplocs, and uses them in the store. Nabati also composts all their food waste themselves. In a recent Instagram post, Ola brought her social media followers behind the scenes in Nabati to show them how plastic-free the store is.


Ola explained, “when you throw compostable or biodegradable material in the landfills -- because there's a lack of energy and a lack of sunlight -- they don't biodegrade. So, you're just adding to the pollution and adding to the waste without actually decomposing it.”


The shop’s compost is then turned into soil which is distributed to farmers in Homestead, ensuring a complete cycle. By sharing their journey on social media, other businesses can get inspiration and implement these practices into their own shops.


“We're building a budget to look into all the different elements of where we can be sustainable. And it's not just by cutting out plastic, but also looking deeper, having our main ingredients being always sustainable, not depending on any of the animal agriculture industry,” Ola explained.


Among the Nabati community, they continue their eco-friendly and sustainable initiatives. Nabati highly encourages anyone to bring their own compost to the store for the team to handle it and properly distribute it to local farmers.


Eco-Coaching


Originally from Saudi Arabia, Ola considers herself a citizen of the world. She spent 10 years of her life in Switzerland and later worked in London. After graduating with a Bachelor's in sustainable business and culinary arts, in 2018, she visited Miami for the first time. She found the city a perfect place where there is no season for ice cream and plenty of opportunities for sustainable growth.


“Miami is quite a challenging environment to have a shop, especially a shop like mine with hyper eco-consciousness. From my experience here, many people aren't ready to pay more for being sustainable. We live so close to the ocean, and there's literally plastic everywhere. But I don't think the residents take it seriously and are ready to pay the price for it. So they would wait until they get some order from the city or some impact from higher authority. There is a little bit of a lack of discipline in Miami in general.”


Hoping to encourage the general public to be more environmentally-aware, Nabati uses all their resources to spread their messages.


They continue their educational efforts on their social media channels with a weekly series called “Eco Monday,” when Ola sits down and speaks about a specific issue. Recent topics include the detrimental effects of the fishing industry on the environment, fasting and what to pay attention to in a nutritional label.


Their Instagram also has a “Sunday Swaps” series where they post alternatives to single-use or plastic materials. Their suggestions include using bars of soap instead of bottles, bringing your own bags to shop, using bamboo cutlery and much more. All of these small transformations can have a big impact on the environment.


Ola also personally trains all her employees to lead more sustainable practices. By making sure everyone in the store follows eco-friendly practices, she creates a workspace that values sustainability, which is necessary for a business that strives for a circular economy.


Ola believes that businesses should work together and cooperate in spreading positive and eco-friendly initiatives. They “can accomplish a lot more than just standing alone.”


If businesses along a supply chain worked together, they could charge lower prices on sustainable goods and tap into audiences they wouldn't normally have access to.


Local businesses can share equipment and reuse machines that another shop may no longer need. They should also try to reduce transportation emissions by basing production near the resources and infrastructure that will be used to create the product. In buying local, raw materials, they will not only reduce transportation costs and reduce pollution but also support their neighboring businesses.


“We're already consuming and polluting so much that if we don't start making these changes, then we're just not going to have anything to live for,” Ola believes. “We can't ignore facts and just start a business still consuming these objects, even if it's cheaper because, at the end of the day, we're going to pay the price for it or our children will.”