Zero-Waste Events

Reader Contribution by Cindy Conner

Earth Day activities are a time to focus on taking care of the environment. You might have attended such events. If you did, did you notice how the trash was handled? Since it was an Earth Day event there really shouldn’t have been any trash to haul away. If food and drink was served, people could have brought their own cups and plates to offer as receptacles, then taken them home. Unfortunately, I believe the Health Departments of all municipalities would have frowned on that. One year I attended an Earth Day event where all the food vendors were required to serve their food and drink using compostable plates and cups. However, I didn’t see any trash containers labeled to receive them to make sure they were destined to a compost pile. There have been many stories in the news over the years of garbage dumps yielding things that should have composted, but hadn’t because everything was sealed.

Composting and Recycling at the Mother Earth News Fairs

I took the photo of the three trash bins at the Mother Earth News Fair in Asheville, N.C., recently. One is for things that will compost (food scraps, paper, and compostable plastic #7), another is for things that can be recycled (bottles and cans, plastic #1-7, and clean paper), and one is for everything else, which is destined for the landfill. Managing trash in this way is nothing new for Danny’s Dumpster, the company managing this service at the Mother Earth News Fair. They even have their own composting operation and sell compost! So, you can be sure those compost bins really are headed for a compost pile.

I didn’t have a booth at this Fair, but I have had one the past four years at the Mother Earth News Fair at Seven Springs, Penn., and was aware of their Leave No Trace Policy which required exhibitors to not leave any debris or trash in their space. They were threatened with a fine of $50 per 100 sq. ft if they did. I left my spot clean so as not to find out how well that would be enforced. It would be nice if everyone cleaned up after themselves without being told, wherever they are. Personally I believe that people should celebrate Earth Day Every Day. You can read more about my zero waste activities at Homeplace Earth.

In the housing industry there is a LEED certification program that builders can gain points with if they meet certain requirements on a checklist. There should be such a program for event planning. If there was, and if meeting the requirements for the highest certification was something to brag about, as the LEED certification is, there would be more events planned with no waste and more companies available to help them through the process. Can you imagine if nothing would be taken to the landfill, making it really a zero waste event? I believe it could happen and it is certainly something to look forward to.

Learn more about Cindy Conner and what she’s up to