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KeepCup goes to India

13 Feb

Ok, this is a little tangental, but it relates to life in my local Delhi neighbourhood. Right at the beginning of this journey, I published a spider diagram on some of the core personal things I wanted to work on throughout the project. One of them was getting off caffeine for a while………well. Um.

That didn’t quite happen.

But I did manage to substitute a coffee habit for a serious chai addiction. All that sweet, milky, tannin goodness on every street corner was just too good to pass up.

What wasn’t so great were the huge numbers of plastic chai cups piled up, and often burnt, in my very same ‘hood…

chai trash

…fortunately, I discovered my well-used KeepCup along with a number of other surprise items in my luggage (let’s just say red wine and running late make for pretty random packing).



KeepCup in bike holder. Image courtesy of blog

I decided, in order to keep up my chai habit, I’d need to let go of the throwaway plastic.

chai boy uses keep cup

The art of tea: 'tis a serious business

So, with a lot of gesturing and a few quizzical looks from the locals, it was warm cups of tea almost every morning for the autorickshaw ride to work.

KeepCup full of chai

The KeepCup without lid and full of yum chai

P.S. A friend of mine once griped about how annoying it was only having disposable plastic cups when he wanted to have a drink at football matches in Melbourne.

We reckon it’s a blindingly good opportunity for KeepCup. Think about it: a reusable cup you can get custom made in your own team colours. What’s not to like?

P.S. I am in no way connected to KeepCup, I just like the product. And by the looks of their rapid global expansion others do to. First the world, then the MCG?



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.

Studiously Social

13 Oct

Another hot, yet productive, day here in Delhi. We’re making progress on accessing Games waste as the event draws to a close. Tonight Jenna, Christina and myself (Liz) made the trip to see the athletics events – it was tough getting tickets as they’re selling like hotcakes now. Yep, we even crossed the rainbow pedestrian bridge – that collapsed and was rebuilt by the army in under a week – into the impressive Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

I hope to post a few photos from the venue, but first I wanted to introduce you to a special series of interviews we’ve undertaken for the Conserve Delhi 2010 project. We’ve gone out to various professionals – from events managers to social entrepreneurs and creatives – seeking their thoughts on this initiative. We hope to make this blog an open source ideas hub, elevating and celebrating the art of upcycling.

Raphael Kilpatrick is a board member of Melbourne’s Social Studio, a social enterprise working with the city’s refugee community to create fashionwear out of recycled and excess manufacturing materials. Raphael is also the Social Studio’s resident web and audiovisual guru. We recommend the short video capturing the Social Studio’s first collection.

1. You helped establish the Social Studio. What were some of the challenges overcome in setting up this initiative?

The Social Studio began, as all challenges do, with an idea. The seed was the many barriers faced by newly arrived members of the community, things like isolation and difficulties accessing education and training. The aim was to tackle these problems by creating jobs, providing education, encouraging community engagement and social inclusion.

So the obvious idea, from the founding directors, was that we start a fashion school! This seemed completely mad at the time, but it turned out that our collective minds were not so mad.

The Social Studio has had the ability to break down most of the barriers we identified. The cutting table offers a place for our young designers to share stories and learn from one another. The café and retail front brings the public into the studio to share in this bonding while also creating jobs and training.

There is also a need in the Australian fashion industry for experienced designers and makers, so our graduates have all moved on into jobs. I guess the first major challenge was seeing the potential of an idea.


Social Studio lookbook image

Image courtesy of the Social Studio Lookbook


2. Like Conserve India, The Social Studio is an organisation described as a ‘social enterprise’. How would you define this term, and are we seeing an increase in such organisations?

I feel that innate in all people is a sense to do ‘good’ and that given the chance most people would extend this to assist others. One of the things that perhaps restricts people to pursue this desire is a feeling of hopelessness when faced with the question: how? I think there is definitely an increase in social enterprises and, as they spread, so does the knowledge of how to set one up. By their nature they are open and sharing organisations not driven by a need to protect their financial bottom line.

3. What are the main types of materials used at the Social Studio and what are the main processes you use to upcycle them into new fashion items?

The Social Studio gathers fabrics, samples and unsold stock from the local fashion industry and our amazing young designers turn them into the most beautiful clothing, in fact we are just about to release our second collection. It’s all brand new clothing from fabric that would otherwise have gone to landfill. We also offer weekend workshops to the public to teach people how to modify their old clothes. Again its about sharing the knowledge and passing on the good.

4. We love the minimalism of your website, who did you work with to create this? Conserve India is investigating an e-commerce solution to sell their products online – are there any plans for Social Studio to do something similar?


Social Studio's Raphael Kilpatrick

The Social Studio's Raphael Kilpatrick


Gee thanks. The website started as a blank page and slowly grew. The web is a wonderful place for social enterprises because people love to share. There are dozens of sites that offer tools to build your own webpage, mailing lists, forms etc. We will eventually have an online store but for now stocking the shop and pedal powered retail is keeping us busy.

5. Have you ever upcycled waste material from a major event? what do you think about this idea?

This is a really exciting prospect. The first fabric we received at The Social Studio were hundreds of really good quality red cotton t-shirts with a large print on the front. Each one had been deliberately slashed with an X to stop them being re-sold so we worked out a way to turn them into durable shopping bags with a strap and then sold them to raise money for a local aid organisation.

6. What kind of upcycled fashion items would you like to see made from Commonwealth Games waste?

I know vinyl banners have been used to make satchel bags for many years now but the potential is huge. These are really large pieces of durable waterproof material that could be used in anything from umbrellas to waterproofing on houses. It’s tough for me to suggest alternate uses for material because India is the most cleverly resourceful country I have every been to.

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