Big Spoon Lil Spoon x QSDT: Our Summer Coffee Cart Project PART 1

At the beginning of June, we were approached by a non-profit organization that has its origins right on Queen's campus. Big Spoon 'Lil Spoon provides cooking and lifestyle classes to children with disabilities and their siblings. Located at Queen's University, University of Toronto, and McMaster's University, the organization is run by three Queen's students. This summer, they're participating in the QICSI program at the DDQIC, an innovation and start-up hub on campus.

They reached out to us for help in building their latest project - a sustainably-built cafe on wheels, which can serve as a co-op and employment opportunity for the students graduating from their programs. We loved the ideas!

Why did we get involved?

We decided to take on the project for two reasons:

  1. It would be a fantastic way to get the word out about simple ways to make construction projects more sustainable. We saw this project being built largely out of recycled materials, and being a cafe would give it a lot of exposure.

  2. We wanted to broaden our reach, and get more people hearing about the Queen's Solar Design Team and our mission. Big Spoon Lil Spoon agreed to have a poster displayed on the cart for information about sustainable building practices and QSDT.

The Process

The first step was determining the scope of the project - we had several preliminary meetings to establish the requirements of the cart, and the budget.

Our team went back to the office and drafted the project proposal next. Our various disciplines really came together on this. The engineers got the chance to model the form of the cart and the business manager worked to establish the mutual benefits of both parties. Together we drew up a comprehensive document.

Download the full PDF Proposal here.

We then began our search for recycled materials. We started with the Wolfe Island Recycling Center, which we'd heard had some potential.

We didn't find much though - since they don't carry wood. We did scavenge metal handles from a used and discarded barbeque. We also found some wheels that looked promising on a toddler's bike, but didn't end up using them.

The wood used for the cart was found on Kijiji. Someone was giving out free leftover wood panels, which we jumped at!

The building began. We're grateful to the Beamish-Munro woodshop for letting us set up there, and use their tools!

Slowly, the cart began to come together. It was looking to be significantly under budget because of the amount of materials we were able to find and re-purpose for free.

At this point, we also reached out to a company called Vericool, which produces biodegradable coolers out of post-consumer corrugated paper. We loved their company and their mission, which is to reduce the use of EPS (commonly referred to as Styrofoam®). Styrofoam is pervasive in the packaging industry, and is unhealthy for our marine ecosystems. The material photodegrades, meaning it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces and marine animals often mistake it for food.

They agreed to provide us with the cooler for the cart, bringing down not only our costs but our environmental footprint!

At the moment, the cart is nearly finished. We've still yet to receive and install the Ohana cooler, print and attach the posters detailing the sustainable mission of the cart, and create a front plaque with Big Spoon 'Lil Spoon's logo for the front of the cart.

We're very proud of how far we've come in just a few weeks, and the entire team can agree that we've learned a lot from the experience.

The extent of our partnership with Big Spoon 'Lil Spoon can best be described by the simple fact that typing in a "b" into any of our search bars automatically prompts the suggestion "". We've worked very closely on this project - from the design and initial scope, and wish them all the best with the coffee cart in the future!

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