Waste is Such a Waste!

zero waste for a greener nelsonville music festival

Once again we’ve reached the time of the year when spring quickly gives way to summer. These warmer days are naturally suited for outdoor events - ‘Tis the season of backyard cookouts, farmers markets, street fairs, community celebrations and music festivals. And let’s face it -- these events can generate a whole lot of waste.

Did you know that a 3-day street fair with a draw of about 5000 people will generate approximately 6 tons or more of waste? That’s a lot of waste that will need to be collected, trucked to and disposed of in a local landfill. And the saddest part is that a significant amount of this waste really isn’t waste at all. With a little effort, the majority of it could be recycled and/or composted.

Going Green Services has partnered with Appalachian Ohio Zero Waste Initiative (AOZWI) for the last couple of years to help divert waste from local landfills during festivals and events in Southeastern Ohio. AOZWI is coordinated by Rural Action, and they collaborate with communities to build local wealth and environmental health by supporting the development of a zero waste economy.

In simple layperson's terms -- they keep trash out of the trash and reroute it to recyclers and compost depots in order to support a new type of economy. A new type of economy? Really? According to the Global Alliance for Incinerator and Landfill Alternatives report in 2010, it is estimated that recycling, re-use, and composting efforts typically create six to ten times as many jobs as waste incineration and landfills. Doubling the national recycling rate could create over 1 million new jobs. No longer out of sight, out of mind: A new way of thinking about our waste can improve our economy and the environmental health of our communities.

2012 Going Green Services was initially asked to provide support to AOZWI to help the Nelsonville Music Festival reach their Zero Waste event goals. The issue is this -- Food vendors provide meals, drinks, snacks and other food items that require large amounts of service-ware. Think about all of the cups, plates, cutlery, napkins, straws, lids and to-go containers needed to feed 5000 people over three days. Not to mention the large amounts of food waste that are discarded by the patrons. And guess what? It all gets thrown away. Waste is such a waste.

What is our role? We provide education and service model consulting free of charge to the food vendors and we offer environmentally friendly compostable service-ware to them at a significantly reduced cost. We deliver directly to them at the festival during set-up and we assist during the weekend to assure that no one runs out of product. And because the event organizers contractually require that all vendors use compostable products they can assure that almost all of the vendors’ waste is actually compostable or recyclable and can be diverted from the landfill.

Does it really make a difference? Let the statistics speak for themselves. The Zero Waste initiative at Nelsonville began in 2011 with the introduction of 3-bin Resource Recovery Stations and the measurement of all collected waste. Compostable service-ware requirements were introduced in 2012 and fully implemented in 2013.

* The full 2014 statistics are not yet available; % provided based on festival weights.
^ In 2013 the Nelsonville Music Festival was recognized as being one of the 6 Most Sustainable Music Festivals in the country by Outdoor Nation.

As you can see, it really does make a difference but it takes a village! Everyone needs to be on board to support the effort. The event organizers need to be dedicated to the effort, and that dedication needs to flow over into all of the appropriate contracts, marketing, information and, most importantly, event planning. A slew of volunteers are needed either to sort the waste or to staff the Resource Recovery Stations in order to provide education and to assist the patrons with the disposal of their items. The vendors (food and other) need to be on board as well and they need to understand why the event is undertaking a zero waste initiative, why it’s important to the community, and how they can help.

In 2014 Granville Kiwanis is beginning their journey to convert the Granville July 4th Celebration into a Zero Waste event. Under this year’s theme of “Granville’s Going Green,” Kiwanis will begin the transition and lead Licking County in its first ever large scale Zero Waste movement. It’s a big undertaking and there will be growing pains along the way. So if you attend the event, look for the Resource Recovery Stations and do your part to help make the effort a success. Going Green Services will be there to help -- we have the experience and the knowledge to provide real world assistance and training to all of the participants. We hope that this is the first of many years of depriving our landfills and supporting the emerging economy of recycling and composting in Central Ohio.