As winter approaches, many of us look for ways to contribute to our communities. Whether we serve food at a shelter, donate to our favorite nonprofit, or give time to our community, this time of year has traditionally been one of volunteerism and giving.
My own family has seen the rich rewards that come from volunteering and giving to our community, and we try to instill in our children a love for the intangible benefits that come from giving to others.
We at Bluegrass Greensource have been looking for new ways to engage our volunteer base in the betterment of our community, and as a result have developed a new Zero Waste Team to help us make community events a little more environmentally friendly by going zero waste or reduced waste.
So what exactly does zero waste mean? A zero waste event diverts 90 percent or more of its waste material away from landfills by recycling, composting and avoiding disposable materials. This is an especially important goal to achieve because events have the potential to create a lot of waste due to their temporary nature and the use of disposable plates, cups and other similar items. These items end up in landfills, causing a cascade of other problems. It’s not difficult to implement zero waste at public events, but it does require planning ahead, and that’s where our volunteer team comes in to help.
We hope to encourage event planners to go zero or reduced waste by providing the resources and volunteers they may need to reach that goal. For the volunteers, it provides an opportunity to help the community in concrete ways while participating in fun community events.
Our volunteer base is divided into two groups – the Zero Waste Planning Committee and the Zero Waste Event Team. When we get a call requesting support for a zero-waste event, we will send out a call to our volunteers to help. Members of the Zero Waste Planning Committee will work with the event planners to assist with all of the coordination that must be done in advance to support zero-waste events. This includes working with vendors to use recyclable, washable, or compostable goods, procuring the correct containers and bags, strategizing the best way to deploy resources, and promoting the zero-waste goal of the event to patrons through advertising and signage.
On the day of the event, the Zero Waste Event Team will spring into action, setting up containers in the appropriate places, making sure signage is in place, answering questions for patrons and staff, and helping people properly sort their waste.
Not only do our volunteers get the satisfaction of making our community a more sustainable place while participating in fun community events, they will also get “Zero Waste Team” shirts. They’re cooler than they sound, I promise!
One of our first partners is the NoLi CDC’s Night Market. They first approached us about supporting recycling at their event, and we are now working with them to fully support zero-waste at future Night Markets. Now is the time to jump on board and help this great community event and others become more sustainable.
Our goal is to eventually provide zero-waste support for all counties in our service area, but for the moment, this support is limited to Fayette County. In the meantime, we do have resources to help events outside of Fayette County reduce their waste through recycling.
If you are interested in joining our Zero Waste Team or in hosting a zero-waste event, please contact our Volunteer Coordinator, Pattie Stivender, at email@example.com or give us a call at 859-266-1572.
Schuyler Warren is an outreach specialist for Bluegrass Greensource, focusing on participation in the LiveGreenLexington initiative by businesses in the city core. A native of the Bluegrass Region, he received a master’s in community and regional planning and in landscape architecture from the University of Oregon. He is a board member for Town Branch Trail and Castlewood Neighborhood Association.
This article appeared in KY Forward on November 21, 2013.