Frankie Cox spent more than five years in New York, where she most notably worked as the executive chef at popular Australian-inspired cafe Two Hands. Now settled back home in Melbourne, she’s opened salad bar Green-On, with an ethos centred around its environmental footprint.

“I was finding it hard to create roots [in New York] because I knew I wanted to do something impactful,” she says. “But if I started it there, I’d probably have to stay forever. I also really wanted to create an impact in my home environment.”

It starts with the design. The first thing you’ll see on the airy, tree-surrounded outdoor deck is people lunching on pastel stools – made from recycled shampoo and conditioner bottles – by Design by Them. The benchtops by Betta Stone are made from silica-free recycled glass, and the tables are built with Kobe Board – a blend of woodchips and cement – by Melbourne’s Aarden Design.

Cox envisioned a space that would help normalise impactful eating, without pressuring diners. “We prefer not to talk about sustainability,” she says. “It’s gotten to a point where it’s so green-washed.”

Green-On strives to eliminate food waste by utilising as much of a whole ingredient as possible. Any leftovers are donated to Waste Ninja, a recycling service that converts the methane from food waste into biogas, which is then fed back into Melbourne’s power grid. Food miles are also a priority, with 95 per cent of produce sourced solely from Victoria, mostly within 100 kilometres of the shopfront.

Diners are also encouraged to BYO (clean) bowl or rent one for a one-time $6 fee using deposit-based system Returnr.

On the menu you’ll find hulking brekkie and lunch bowls – try nutrient-rich options such as the harissa cauliflower, packed with spinach, sorghum, capers, cherry tomatoes, red onion, feta, almonds and dill yoghurt. Or, build your own bowl by choosing a leafy or grain base; veggie toppings; dressing (go for the green goddess); nuts and seeds; a couple of protein add-ons like chicken, boiled egg, tofu or feta; and a few “textures” like spiced chickpeas, seaweed crunch and pumpkin seeds.

Green-On’s motto is “eat for impact”. And while Cox says it might hold a different meaning to each person – whether they’re interested in the environmental, health or community aspects of the business – it’s something everyone can get around.

And there’s more to come – with the successful opening of the first Green-On location, Cox has plans to expand across the city. “I’m hoping that through opening more stores and giving [Green-On] more exposure, we can help normalise this way of eating.”

Building 5, 656 Church Street, Richmond

Mon to Fri 8am–3pm