This year’s 11th annual Certified Local Fall Festival was the second year that Local First Arizona committed to working Toward Zero Waste to reduce the environmental impact of the festival. To help work towards this goal, composting and recycling were offered throughout the festival in addition to trash containers. While we still have a long wishlist of ways to lessen the impact of this event, we diverted a significant amount of material from the landfill this year, thanks to our waste partners, invaluable volunteers, and engagement from all of our attendees. We were able to divert a total of 58% of all of our waste from the landfill! We recycled 1,100 pounds of material with the City of Phoenix and 442 pounds of food and paper waste with composting partners, Recycled City. Here is a breakdown of how we were able to reduce so much waste this year. Reduce The most important step in reducing the amount of waste produced at an event is to avoid the creation of waste in the first place. We asked all of our vendors to avoid bringing as many disposable materials as possible, and asked them to prioritize recyclable and compostable materials. Kudos to our vendors who were especially conscientious about what they served food on, like The Parlor’s awesome compostable plates! We were happy to see that there was almost no styrofoam or plastic bags throughout the festival, both of which are problematic to recycle.
Other steps we took to reduce the amount of waste generated was to eliminate cocktail napkins altogether and to scale back on the amount of plastic water bottles disposed. To reduce plastic water bottles, we sold reusable water bottles with Local First Arizona logos and had free water refilling stations for anyone with their own bottle. We were able to cut down on the number of water bottles given out by half, thanks to these water stations. One last thing that helped reduce our impact was to encourage people to ride the light rail instead of drive, since the event was held right next to a major light rail stop. While car-related waste doesn’t go into the landfill, using public transportation allows us to reduce the amount of exhaust fume “waste” that pollutes our air.
Reuse Reuse of materials is next best option for reducing waste, after avoiding it altogether. Local First Arizona sends foam core boards and banners that were used for signage throughout the festival to the Art Resource Center in Tempe. The boxes leftover from stuffing our gift bags were given to Practical Art in Phoenix, who will reuse them for shipping products.
Recycle Recycling is the third best option for striving Toward Zero Waste and plays a huge role in our ability to divert waste from the landfill. Recycling allows us to reduce the environmental impact of all of the cardboard boxes, plates, cups, cans and bottles that we use at the festival that allow us to enjoy all of the tasty treats created by our local business owners. The majority of the serving from the festival this year was recyclable plastic plates, forks, and cups. All of the sample cups in the beer and wine garden were made of recyclable material and created a large portion of the recycling stream. At the end of the festival, the recycling dumpster was almost half full, while the trash dumpster was less than a quarter full.
Another component of recycling includes composting of food and paper waste, since this material will be processed into new material. Our partners at Recycled City were present at the festival to help us sort and divert food scraps, which they will eventually turn into fertilizer for growing healthy gardens and local food throughout the Valley.
Thank you Volunteers! The most important component of successfully diverting a lot of waste from the festival is the help of the amazing volunteers who educated attendees and vendors about what, how, and why to keep material out of the landfill. Volunteers were present at the most high trafficked waste stations at the festival to direct people which receptacle to place their waste. When they weren’t teaching attendees about how they can divert waste themselves, our volunteers hand sorted some the contaminated bins so that we could maximize the amount of waste diverted. It takes dedicated and passionate volunteers to make Toward Zero Waste efforts a success. Thanks to our amazing volunteers from Arizona State University and the Arizona School for the Arts for bringing groups to help out, as well as all the other individuals who helped with our efforts!