Archive | December, 2010

The most beautiful moment

21 Dec

I have a little confession to make – I’ve been back in Australia for over two weeks now, catching up with family and friends. Which partly explains why I’ve taken so long in between posts (the other part is limited access to internet). And I’m about to spend Christmas at my family farm in Queensland where there’s no internet!

So the team at Conserve India and I have agreed to extend the blog until February next year.

I’m looking forward to showing you the images of our final Commonwealth Games products and some of the fantastic models we found in Delhi on my last night in town. 

There’s also quite a few other things I’d like to post  in order to fully complete the project blog (I’m still wading through all my photos and writing up my final report).

But until then, I wanted to leave you with this short, captivating trailer from a film I can’t wait to see. It’s called Wasteland and it’s doing the festival circuits at the moment, picking up lots of awards.

I came across it earlier this year and, although it’s a South American story, it formed the final inspirational moment behind my decision to quit my job and travel to Delhi.

I keep thinking about the old woman, from one of the scenes, as she cooks her dinner right in the middle of the world’s largest garbage dump. And how she says she feels good there…

So dear readers, as the western calendar year draws to a close, I hope this post finds you feeling good…whereever you may be.

‘The moment one thing turns into another is the most beautiful moment. That moment is really magical.’  Vik Muniz, Wasteland


Festival perspective

14 Dec

For our final instalment in the Conserve Delhi 2010 ideas hub I’d like to share a response from Riki Edelsten, Partnership and Resources Manager at one of Melbourne’s premier community events: the Sustainable Living Festival.

SLF River Crowds

Sustainable Living Festival crowds along the Yarra River

Over the past decade the Sustainable Living Festival has inspired large audiences to live more sustainably, by showcasing and celebrating sustainability in the heart of Melbourne city.

Much has changed since the first Festival in 1998, held in regional Victoria and attended by just over 2,000 devoted innovators: the Festival now attracts over 120,000 visits to the event in Federation Square each February.

In 2011 the Festival is expanding to meet people where they’re at. Inspired by successful community engagement and mobilisation models from around the world, the 2011 Festival two week extended format is reaching out into our streets and suburbs engaging new audiences on local and global issues and relevant solutions.

This will be the fifth year I have been involved with the Festival. I began as a volunteer in 2006, producing Festival communication materials. Then I went on to find employment with a major sponsor of the Festival, the Victorian Government’s lead agency on Climate Change, Sustainability Victoria.  This year I’ve returned as part of the Festival core team and I’m loving it!

2011 Sustainable Living Festival website:

1. What’s the motivation behind the Sustainable Living Festival?

The ongoing goal of the Sustainable Living Festival is to accelerate community uptake of sustainability. Therefore we were delighted that 90% of visitors to the Festival believed that information from the 2010 Festival will help them to take action to live more sustainably.

2. How do you deliver the Festival with minimal environmental impact?

The Festival aims to walk the talk in event production. Each Festival our team work hard to deliver an event following our ‘Own Practice’ principles:

Cyclic – creating no waste

Solar – using clean energy

Efficient – running with less

Safe – ensuring its harmless

Social – caring for people

Smart – adapting to change

Some of the ways we deliver on these principles are:

  • The Festival uses 100% accredited GreenPower.
  • Promotional materials are printed using a waterless printing process, vegetable based inks and forest-friendly paper stocks or recycled waste paper.
  • Throughout the Festival a well-signed, four-bin system encourages attendees to separate paper, glass, cans, plastic, and food waste for compost and recycling. A waste wise ‘menu’ is also available at tables in the café area, informing patrons about our system and how they can use it.
  • Another great sustainability workout for our volunteers is the Wash Against Waste (WAW) stand. At WAW, a team of volunteers washes and dries used plates and cutlery from Festival food venders, thereby eliminating the need for disposable food and beverage containers. So popular is this concept that the Sustainable Living Foundation developed a WAW service to deliver to other festivals around the Victoria.

For more on the Festival’s own practice principles check out our website.

3. What are the main challenges you’ve overcome?

The main challenges are staging a Festival through a team that is made up of primarily volunteers. With a limited budget, employment periods are short which makes forward planning near impossible.

4.  What are the main types of waste created at the SLF festival and what’s the most unusual waste stream you’ve had to deal with?

Probably not highly unusual, but definitely an unexpected waste stream, were plastis cups supplied by one of our partner organizations in 2009, accounting for the sharp rise in rubbish to landfill.

slf waste statistics

Sustainable Living Festival waste management statistics

5. Have you ever heard of upcycling being done with waste after an event like the Commonwealth Games? If not, how do you think it can be best included in major event production and management?

No, I’ve never heard of waste from an event being upcycled. The best way to include it into an on-going event is with a sales or marketing edge, illustrating a point of difference to event patrons. Imagine if waste from an event was made into products that were sold at the next event – like promotional, branded reuseable cups/bags/water bottles – then the upcycling tells a story event patrons feel a part of. The upcycled promotional products become the outfits of a subculture.

6. What kind of upcycled products would you make from major event waste?

Festival belts with pouches to carry your essential festival kit, water bottles, crockery and cutlery. Items that can be used at the event.

Hands-on upcycling II: staff profile

7 Dec

While we wait for our new Commonwealth Games sample products to be finalised, I thought I’d return to our ‘hands on upcycling’ series, showcasing Conserve India’s people and processes.

In the first of these production posts we saw snapshots of staff preparing base materials, creating designs and producing samples. Today we move to an important hub of the organisation – the stockroom.

One of the things I’ve come to understand and admire about Conserve India is their commitment to providing staff with professional development opportunities, including promotion.

One person who has risen up through the ranks is Mohan, Conserve India’s Production Manager. Because my hindi is not very good, interviewing Mohan for this blog was a little tricky.  So I was grateful to Anita, Conserve’s Creative Director, for kindly offering to translate for us.

Here’s Mohan sharing a few of his experiences working with Conserve India:

Mohan Conserve India's Production Manager

How long have you worked with Conserve India and what was your first job?

I’ve worked here for 9 years. My first job was in the Quality Control Unit.

What was the hardest thing you had to learn when you became Production Manager?

The hardest thing was taking on more responsibility. I now oversee Conserve’s production process. It still involves checking the quality of all materials delivered to Conserve’s stockroom. But it’s also my job to divide up the stock and make sure it’s sent out to our fabricator workshops to meet buyer orders for our products.

Did you know about Delhi’s Commonwealth Games?

Yes, I knew they were happening.

Did you go? Did the Games have any impact on your life?

No I didn’t go. But I noticed the city was cleaned up a lot for the Games – that was a good thing.

Which of Conserve’s special Commonwealth Games products do you like best so far?

I like the Shahrukh messenger bag.

Shahrukh messenger bags

Commonwealth Games 'Shahrukh' messenger bags

What has been the most important change to your life from being promoted within Conserve India?

Being rewarded for hard work, with things like a better salary, is important. But becoming a manager also means my workmates look to me more: I have earned greater respect.

From banners to schools

6 Dec

“Um, so Dave what kind of vehicle will we need to pick up the banner?” We hadn’t really nutted out the logistics of collecting a 20m x 20m, 170kg piece of mesh PVC.

So, taking an educated guess and with fingers well crossed, we borrowed a Conserve India work car and arrived to find ICON’s British riggers resting on the already neatly folded banner. (We were too late to watch them repelling down the side of the building – dang! These guys were professionals – travelling straight from the airport, harnessing up and getting the job done within half an hour. Jet lag? Meh, what jet lag?)

Folding the Aviva banner

ICON's riggers folding the You are the Big Picture banner at Statesman House, Delhi

Transporting the Aviva banner

Loading up the banner haul at Statesman House, Delhi

collecting unexpected materials from Aviva

Don't know what to do with your carabeenas? We'll take 'em!

And here’s what we plan to make with the banner…

Stationery samples made from Commonwealth Games waste

Closing the loop with stationery samples made from Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games waste materials

Pencil case made from Delhi Commonwealth Games waste

Pencil case upcycled from Delhi Commonwealth Games waste

The diligent team in Conserve’s sampling unit whipped up these school products so we could convince Aviva to upcycle with us.

As I mentioned yesterday, Aviva is funding education programs around the world focussing on supporting street children with schooling or training opportunities. In India, Aviva’s main ‘Street to School’ partners are Save the Children and CRY. So we figured why not make products that Aviva can take back and use in these initiatives?

Material reaching the end of it’s first life, reincarnated and sold as products for those most in need: closing the loop with a little dash of soul.

But it’s not over yet, dear readers, this partnership with Aviva was a small, unexpected outcome emerging from our Games project.

There’s still a lot of Commonwealth Games waste material we’re trying to create products with. Stay with us as our upcycling adventure continues to unfold…

Unexpected outcomes

5 Dec

“Hello Liz, this is Abhigyan from Reebok India calling…”

About a week after the Commonwealth Games ended, news of our project broke in two of India’s most widely read English newspapers – the Times of India and Hindustan Times.

The combined reach of these papers is almost 20 million people. Just this fact alone was enough to send us double air-punching around the Conserve India office.

But what we didn’t expect was the response from people in companies, like Reebok, tracking us down to talk all things upcycling. (More on Reebok soon).

As you may have guessed from my last post, one of the companies was Aviva, a multinational insurance firm. Aviva recently launched an international branding campaign – ‘You are the Big Picture’. As part of this initiative, thousands of photos donated by members of the public were projected for a week onto a giant banner hanging from Statesman House in Connaught Place, Delhi.

Aviva has promised one pound for every photo uploaded to their website – up to a maximum of 250,000 GBP – will go to education projects, working with street kids across India.

Jenna on Aviva's Statesman House Banner

Jenna donates her face in Aviva's 'You are the Big Picture' campaign

So we were certainly intrigued when David Jiggens, Production Director from ICON – Aviva’s event management company, gave us a call looking for a way to recycle the banner. David was used to having options like waste to heat treatment in his home country, England, for disposing of materials otherwise heading to landfill.

I said: “Hey Dave, recycling is so last century! How about we energy-efficiently upcycle your banner into some brand spanking new products? And while we’re at it, we might even throw in some free Commonwealth Games material to make the products extra specially unique.” (Not quite how it rolled, but I’m summarizing several conversations. You get the drift.)

David liked the idea and we reached an agreement to spend his recycling budget on upcycling instead. Nice.

Tune in for tomorrow’s post and we’ll show you how the banner got from the side of a building to our factory…and what we’re going to upcycle it into…

Go well,


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