My visits on days 2 and 3 were shorter. I met a few people, learned a few more things. Here are some snippets.
First stop, Dallis Bros. Coffee. I start talking with a bearded, middle-aged man. He mentions something that gives me greater appreciation for challenges coffee shops face. Stores have to pay for their own waste disposal in New York. I later find on the DSNY (Department for Sanitation New York) website that businesses must arrange for collection with private carters (commercial waste haulers) or register as a self-hauler. Searching through city approved carters, recycling is sometimes an additional service (an extra cost). Recycling is law in NYC, but it’s not clear how it’s properly regulated with all the collection modes.
I see Joe Coffee. I’ve heard the name. I’ll check them out. I begin talking with a tall man at the booth. When I mention sustainability, a woman with dark-framed glasses chimes in. Kendra. She’s a shift trainer based in Philly and tells me about an outstanding barista who has been a major influence at her store. Kendra tells me because of this barista, she no longer uses paper napkins; the barista has had a similar impact on others in the community. I want to meet her. Kendra offers to put us in touch.
A few days before the festival I was thinking about the direction I’d like to go in and new ways of communicating information. I’m considering video and maybe doing a podcast. I’m a visual learner and prefer listening to books rather than reading them – I’d like to reach people who have the same preferences. I learn from Kendra that this barista has a theater background. A light goes on. Maybe there’s an opportunity here.
As I sit down at an empty, long gray table near Joe’s booth to write down some things I’ve learned, I suddenly see Goat Mug across the way. A surge of excitement shoots through me. I’ve got to talk to them!
I attended an entrepreneur meet-up in London a few months ago, around the time I decided to give up my academic career. I found out about the meet-up a few hours before. I had an instinctive feeling I needed to go to it. I dropped everything, cycled five miles through the Oxfordshire countryside and caught the next train to London.
I arrived late. This was due to travel time and deciding to stop and watch what I found out was the shooting of the final scenes of The Mountain Between Us, starring Kate Winslet (yes, I saw her). The set was a recreation of the streets of NYC, where I would be moving a few weeks later. The meet-up was in the basement of a modern cocktail bar, the Slug & Lettuce. I walked in during the introductions. I stated my interests (sustainability, building some type of online social infrastructure to reduce waste etc.) and the type of co-founder I was looking for (someone in tech, a computer programmer, app developer etc.), and once introductions were through, I had the opportunity to “mingle” and “network”.
The last person of the evening I spoke with was a computer programmer, working at a VC firm in London. I didn’t get the impression he was looking to work in the area I was focused on, although he expressed interest in the ideas. At one point he asked if I had heard about a Slovenian start-up, Goat Mug. I hadn’t. He told me these guys marketed their product really well, catering to serious (hipster) coffee drinkers. The Goat Mug team’s commitment to and execution of an idea was inspirational, and pivotal in encouraging me to pursue my own ideas related to waste reduction through cultural change.
Standing in front of the Goat Mug booth, I’m bubbling with enthusiasm, which pours out as I introduce myself to Anže, one of the co-founders. He’s a young, friendly, brown-eyed guy. He’s preparing coffee using their limited edition G-Drip brewer. I try to slip in some context as I explain my interest in sustainability so he gets were my excitement is coming from. He listens attentively. He shares the story behind their cleverly designed, horn-shaped cup – a tribute to the goat, which helped lead to the discovery of coffee (here’s their fun video illustration of the story).
Some people approach the booth during our conversation. They appear to be big fans too and ask about purchasing their Brown model. They’re sold out. I continue talking with Anže after the people leave, expressing interest in potential collaboration. He reassures me he’s 100% on board with sustainability and open to exploring projects. He gives me his business card – I plan to keep in touch as things progress.
I arrive at the very end of the festival. About a half an hour remains. I’m here to connect with some people after. As I’m chatting with a guy who works at Califia Farms (a newly discovered plant-based milk alternative that has rocked my world), an upbeat, energetic gal swings by. Ruth. She has an English accent. I find out she’s one of the event organizers. I had left my email with staff the day before and emailed them about my interest in helping to plan next year’s venue. This is perfect. I can talk to her. I tell Ruth about the idea of running a sustainable venue, incorporating reusable branded cups in ticket sales to use for sampling, and finding a community garden group to dispose of coffee grinds. She’s totally into the idea and says how her boss was wanting to bring in outside perspectives and expertise. I get her contact details so we can work on improving sustainability of the 2018 festival.
Days 2 and 3 were on October 13 and 15, respectively.