2016 What A Year!

Posted Monday December 19, 2016 by Mark

2016 What A Year!


We’ve all heard the old saying that time flies when you’re having fun. Well, I must have been having a ball as it’s almost Christmas and the Paris climate conference trip seems like yesterday! As much as I love Charlie Brooker, I’m going to do the opposite of his upcoming 2016 Wipe and look back on this year and the monumental achievements we managed to pull off along the way. We couldn’t have done it without the help of passionate, determined and really, really, ridiculously good looking volunteers so I shall give credit where credit is due!


So let’s begin. I returned from the Paris climate conference both enlightened by what I’d learned about the international climate negotiation process that is the UN Conference of Parties (COP) but mostly disillusioned by how much of a cop-out the whole spectacle was. After debriefing my volunteers on my findings we quickly turned this disillusionment into determination. If the best the world leaders could do after over two decades of negotiations was a non-binding agreement that may limit temperature rise to an already-catastrophic 3.5 degrees celsius, then surely the citizens of planet earth could do better. All we need to do is build a movement. Easier said than done, but also easier done than ever before thanks to the power of the internet to instantly diffuse ideas on a global scale to everyone in the world.


So we got to work and started thinking about the best way to not only raise the awareness of the relative carbon impact of different types of meat but also how to drive a shift away from the overconsumption of those types of meat most damaging to the climate: beef and lamb. We figured smartphone apps are blowing up, and especially those which track our steps, our calories and even our sex lives. Why not add the ability to track the carbon footprint of one’s diet to the mix? So we got to work. We quickly learned that building an app is far more expensive and complex than building a website and there are few if any app developers willing to volunteer their time and talents, especially when they are making in excess of $1k per day! So we decided crowdfunding was the way to go.


Zara and I got to work developing a crowdfunding campaign. We looked at Pozible, Kickstarter, Chuffed and a few others. We even met with someone in a line of work I was completely oblivious to – crowdfunding consultants! We picked Pozible as they had the biggest reach in the APAC region. Furthermore, they appeared to be the most helpful after joining a few workshops and webinars they hosted free for all with no obligation to go with them – what a generous bunch! We found them super supportive and no, they are not paying me for this endorsement.


We then had to figure out exactly what the app was going to be like, or at least to the best of our knowledge. Luckily one of the people we contacted initially for a quote, Rod from Melbourne App Development, was kind enough to offer us a scoping session where we could brainstorm and come up with a rough plan and some basic designs. We didn’t forget this act of generosity. Rod was in our good books!


The rest of the quotes we got varied wildly, from $10k to $200k for virtually the same features! Madness! So we went with the lowest, not only because it was the lowest but also because Rod (yes, same Rod) was passionate and as excited by our project as we were.


Once Eve, Lucy and I put together a promotional plan we were ready to go. As soon as we hit the green button we got a flurry of support. And then… nothing <insert cricket noises>. We had a few more bits of support here and there but by the end with only a few days to go we were about halfway so we got to discussing what we learned from this experience, what we would do better next time, until, more support started pouring in – something like $100 every 15 minutes! We couldn’t believe it! With only 12 hours to go we started believing it. We all spammed our friends and family to pledge again just to get us over the line (sorry guys!) and it worked – WE MADE IT!!! In the end we raised $12,241 from 218 supporters – thanks guys and gals, you know who you are. Much love!


Without a moment to spare, Rod and I reached out to our graphic design superstar, David Zwolski (he’s ok with me using his full name as it’s good for business – hit him up if you like his handiwork!) and got started designing the visuals of the app. We (David) came up with three cracking designs and the Pozible supporters overwhelmingly picked the final one you see in the app stores and hopefully on your phone now we lovingly called ‘bubbly’. Patrick, Joey and I got to work on the copy. Patrick was able to match the tone of my dad jokes but he was actually able to make them funny which is always a bonus! Thanks to Rod’s wizardry we were able to build the app in little over a month. This was before I realised what was yet to come – testing!


In a nutshell, testing was HARD. We not only had to test 250 unique messages (hints, tips, challenge completion messages etc) to ensure they showed up when they were meant to but also every other aspect of the app. Even when we thought it was all over things came up that we had to fix and retest – finding out the app stopped working properly in different time zones while Rod was taking a well-deserved holiday was one such occasion! Just to give you an idea of how much testing, fixing and retesting we did – the app went through 42 VERSIONS!!!


Once the app was finished it was time to plan an epic launch event. We were a little short on volunteers so we put an ad up on Ethical Jobs and the new recruits came in fast. Line led the marketing and communications team in developing strategies and tactics to get the word out there about the launch as far and wide as possible. Emma led the events team to put the actual launch event together which was no mean feat. Turns out setting up a few food trucks in a public space is a lot more complicated and bureaucratic than one would think! But both Emma, Line and their respective teams did an excellent job and pulled it off, even in the face of gale force winds which took out half of our infrastructure and any chances of the cooking demonstrations we had so carefully planned. The day did clear up and Planet A’s Aiden and Michael entertained passers by with the spectacle of a breakdancing cow dancing to our very own Less Meat Less Heat anthem you can check out here. Tara got the kids involved with the most amazing balloon creations I’ve ever seen. I used to think a giraffe was impressive until I saw her rendition of a koala chilling on a eucalyptus tree!


The launch and the resulting media coverage from the likes of The Age and Triple J helped drive over two thousand app downloads in the first fortnight of launching. Around the same time our friends at WildAid launched a public service announcement-campaign in China featuring none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger which they allowed us to use in Australia. To top it off towards the end of the PSA  Arnie says “Less meat, less heat, more life!”.


In the background of all this I was working hard on my TED talk from March onwards which I ended up presenting at TEDxStKilda in June. This was largely a solo endeavour (aside from the awesome coaching provided by Zac) hence why I didn’t go too much into detail about it here. But in short, it was a LOT of work, a humbling experience forcing me to let go of my expertise in this area (read stubbornness) and trust the process. The end result is ‘Reclaim our Future with the Climatarian Diet – I hope you like it.


Something else that happened in the background of the aforementioned events was  LMLH’s office move to the Fitzroy-based offices of Ethical Jobs. They have generously donated us office space. Check out their website for more info about jobs in the not-for-profit sector.


I’m sure I’ve missed a few things as I write these words at 10:22pm on a Thursday night but please forgive me. Last but not least I’d like to thank you. Yes you, for having the foresight and intelligence to support such an important cause as ours through the good times and the bad. I couldn’t have done any of this without the incredible volunteers our organisation is constantly blessed with, and our organisation could not have gotten so far without the support of our fans across the interwebs and attending our events.


Although 2016 is going to be hard to beat we are damned if we ain’t going to try (as is a stable climate at this point!). We have big ambitions for next year including adding many new features to the next version of The Climatarian Challenge such as the ability to compete against your friends, and yes, by popular demand, the ability to track dairy and various types of seafood, just to name a few. We also plan to build custom versions for various purposes including use in schools and universities both here and abroad. We have a major research project in partnership with the University of Melbourne in the wraps. We will be hard at work developing new programs based on the best behaviour change research to help make the climatarian diet mainstream and global in the shortest period of time. Last but not least we plan to make the organisation fiscally sustainable both through the help of people like you through monthly contributions as well as philanthropic and government grants, not to mention products and services we have yet to develop which are consistent with our mission and vision. There’s lots of work to do, little time and ample passion. We have a big task on our hands to turn the climate crisis around. Let’s get to work!


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