Streets ahead: Chinatown leads the way in sustainable events

The first Saturday of every month sees Gold Coast Chinatown in Southport come alive with the Chinatown Street Markets, a celebration of all things Asian culture, and – wait for it – sustainability. Yes, you heard correctly.  Over the past two years, the  City’s CBD Office located in Southport have slowly introduced a range of sustainability initiatives to the popular monthly events in the CBD, culminating in an impressive list of strategies for the reduction of the environmental impact that generally goes hand in hand with these kind of public scenarios. Banning the sale of bottled water and balloons, restricting packaging to biodegradable only and charging power per amp are just a few of the ways in which the Chinatown Street Markets have managed to reduce their footprint.

We caught up with Larry Dyer, owner / operator of Bicycle Centre Nerang, who provides  free bicycle checks at the Chinatown Street Markets.

“We set up a stall where people can bring their bikes for a free safety check,” he explains. “We hope this initiative encourages people to  ride to the event, minimising congestion on the roads and reducing the carbon emissions associated with getting to the event.”

The free safety checks are no joke, with either Larry or one of his bike mechanics checking every bolt, pumping up tyres, and making sure bicycles are returned in a roadworthy condition.

“We also put bells on bikes, check if they don’t have one reflectors, and if there’s anything we can’t do on the spot like tightening the brakes or loose handlebars – quite serious stuff –  we run them over what is required from any of the bike shops on the Gold Coast and around about how much that might cost as well.”

An avid cyclist himself, Larry is pleased to see an initiative like this and hopes it means more people are cycling instead of driving.

“It’s a way of life,” he says. “The more bikes on the road, the better it will be.”

Arran Woollams is another business owner who has well and truly embraced the sustainability focus at the Chinatown events. At his Southport laneway bar, Last Day on Earth, beer and wine are sold on tap only, reducing their rubbish output by an absolutely astonishing amount.

“The change there has been to completely keg all of our products – that means no bottled wine, no bottled beer, no straws. We went from taking out several large bins per night to one 20L paint bucket a week.”

This incredible change has spread to their external events service, where they have partnered with  the CBD Office on a Cup Deposit Scheme.

“We provide alcohol at small events like bands, activities and DJs that pop-up in Davison Lane, Southport,” explains Arran, “and at the last festival [Lunar New Year] we had reusable cups”.

“The way it works is you pay a $3 one-off deposit for a reusable cup when you buy your first drink.  You use this cup throughout the event and get $2 back at the end of the night when you’ve finished drinking.  We then wash all the cups ready for the next event!  Don’t worry you can get a clean cup when you buy your next drink if you want, just as long as you’re returning the used one.”

The initiative has been warmly received, Arran tells us.

“We had no complaints whatsoever. I think once they understood what we were trying to achieve it was fine. They could get their money back at the end of the night but lots of people didn’t expect it back and we’re happy to do that as a donation as it helped pay for washing the cups! I think we had about 2000, so it would’ve saved 2000 plastic cups for just that one four hour event and that’s just a small event, imagine how many cups you’d save from going to landfill at larger events!”

The success of the initiatives at Chinatown Street Markets, and growing momentum on the Gold Coast towards greener practices, may well inspire other event organisers who might be jumpy about instigating change in this area. With large scale events producing a significant amount of waste, any and all attempts to reduce environmental impact should be embraced by the community.

6 October sees the Flavours of Metro Street Party from 5pm to 9pm (featuring Tijuana Cartel, DJ Little Fritter and Burger Joint), with the Chinatown Street Markets back from 5pm – 9pm on 3 November. Feel free to ride to the event, get your bike checked out and remember to bring your own water bottle for your free water refill!

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