Saving the World, One Startup Weekend at a Time

“You know what? We should use all our past event t-shirts for our Startup Weekend, it would be much kinder on the Environment”

Our little town of Toowoomba is located on top of the Great Dividing Range on the eastern edge of a large and fertile region called the Darling Downs. This place was named in 1827 by Allan Cunningham, a botanist and the first European explorer to reach the area. For nearly 180 years it has been the home to aborigines, settlers, farmers, migrants and refugees. More recently it has become the home to miners, engineers, and environmentalists. Alongside of all this we now find the Hipsters, Hackers and Hustlers who make up our Startup Weekend family here in regional Queensland.

Windmill near Allora on the Darling Downs

Our predominantly black soils, fertile and abundant in their water holding abilities produce many different crops such as soy beans, chick peas, cotton, wheat, barley and sorghum. Between the farms there are a maze of back country roads, treed ridge lines, meandering creeks and herds of cattle. There are farms with chickens, beef cattle, dairy cattle, pigs, sheep and horses. Whilst agriculture has been the major focus of our area for the last 180 odd years, for the last decade we have enjoyed, suffered, loved and hated the boom in resources. Coal and Coal Seam Gas are abundant beneath the lands both on the Downs and further west in the Surat Basin. This is a challenge for the farmers, the environmentalists and the miners.

Our Startup Weekend Edition for May 2016 was Ag and the Environment. Our main organiser Joy is particularly passionate on sustainability and the efficient use of resources. At our Startup Weekends we choose to serve our event meals on real porcelain plates so that there are no paper or plastic plates used. The cutlery is stainless steel and washed after each meal. We do not supply water in plastic bottles with all participants given a reusable branded water bottle or a glass. We also use glasses, china cups and mugs to avoid that paper or plastic cup thing.

Note the mugs, water bottle and vintage Tee
This act alone saves on masses of packaging and helps avoid potential over ordering of pre-prepared meals.

Many Startup Weekend meals over the last two years have been cooked in house; from scratch, like nachos or BBQ lamb chops with potatoes and vegetables. Breakfasts are toast, cereal, fruit, yoghurt etc. This act alone saves on masses of packaging and helps avoid potential over ordering of pre-prepared meals.

Cooked from scratch — Porcelain Plate — Stainless Cutlery — No rubbish.

Being a regional centre over 100 km from a major city with a town population around 96,000 our events tend to be on the smaller side averaging 2o participants and 20 more mentors and guests. This allows us to tailor our activities and manage against wastage. The one time when we did have a large amount of leftovers from a Startup Weekend dinner we promptly delivered it to a local mens shelter where it was very welcome and quickly devoured.

This most recent edition which had a focus on the environment as well as agriculture meant we took a very keen line on resources. What did we already have? What did we really need to buy in? What could we recycle and what could be reused? After holding 3 previous Startup Weekends and the Youth Founderfest we discovered we had quite a supply of brand new never used T-shirts. Did they say Ag & the Environment? No they didn't! Did they say 2016? Well a some did! Some shirts had Startup Weekend 2014 or 2015 on them. Did anyone complain? No… everyone wore their vintage SW Tee with glee.

Vintage Tee’s — Left and Right Global Startup Battle 2014, Green GSB 2015 & a 2016 Founderfest Tee

So there you go! I’ve heard it said, and I have said it myself (in jest) “I only go to Startup Weekends for the T-shirt and the Food” and it seems that it does not matter what kind of T-shirt ;-)

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