October 25, 2006 | General

The Zero Waste Summer Of 2006

BioCycle October 2006, Vol. 47, No. 10, p. 18
Based on successful experiences in diverting compostables, Zero Waste events show residents how to function without a trash can.
Eric Lombardi

SEVEN YEARS AGO, Eco-Cycle based in Boulder, Colorado created our first Zero Waste Festival in the small community of Longmont. Year after year, we have gotten better and better, and the concept of Zero Waste has slowly come to be understood and embraced by both the festival vendors and the attendees. This summer, we experienced an explosion of interest in staging ZW Events across every community in our county (population 300,000). The path of ZW Event growth has been very much like the famous Gandhi quote: “First they ignored us, then they laughed at us, then they fought us, and finally we have won.”
Local Zero Waste Events are proving to be one of the most powerful public education tools that we’ve ever created here at Eco-Cycle, and we’ve been doing community outreach for 30 years. “Zero Waste” is NOT only 100 percent recycling/composting… that’s the easy part, actually. Our local events don’t get the ZW label unless they do the hard work of getting the festival vendors to use only recyclable or compostable cutlery, plates, and other hand-outs. Once you’ve achieved that milestone, as we have at the Boulder City Farmers Market (10,000 people every Saturday!), then we can actually remove all the trash cans and hang our signs that proclaim to the visitor “You Are Entering A Zero Waste Zone”. With the full system in place, we then station volunteers at our ZW Stations to help the confused public understand how the world could possibly still function without a trash can. (Go to to learn more about one of the first continuous Zero Waste events in the nation.)
I would encourage every community across America to start planning now for ZW festivals in the summer 2007 event season, because this is a building wave. It’s becoming so clear to staff here at Eco-Cycle that the American public is tired of all the bad news, and is ready to start moving toward real solutions.
Louisville 4th of July BBQ – The brand new Community Park in Louisville was the site for a very successful Zero Waste effort. City of Louisville and Eco-Cycle volunteers and staff teamed up to make this a great Zero Waste event – recycling or composting 83 percent of the material from the event. Free brats were served (and composted!) to over 3,500 festival-goers. Thanks to our volunteers, the City of Louisville and the cooperative food vendors for making this a great event!
Superior Pancake Breakfast – Superior had a crowd of about 4,000 pancake eaters (some in their running shoes, some in parade gear and some in Zero Waste t-shirts) for their annual pancake breakfast. More than 6,000 pancakes were made and served! With the teamwork of the Town of Superior RCAC (Recycling and Conservation Advisory Committee) and Eco-Cycle volunteers, 86 percent of the festival waste was diverted from the landfill and either recycled or composted.
Lafayette Oatmeal Festival – The hard working citizen-based Waste Reduction Advisory Committee and Eco-Cycle brought the City a step closer towards ts goal of holding “Zero Waste” special events. Citizen volunteers supervised special receptacles to make sure that compostable materials were sorted correctly, and in the end, over 1,800 pounds of discards were recovered and only 35 pounds of waste went to the landfill – now that’s what we call Zero Waste-Or Darn Near! “Recycling is important to our residents,” commented Public Works Director Doug Short, “and it’s great to see hard work paying off like this, diverting a significant amount of garbage from the landfill and turning it into compost.”
Eco-Cycle’s new mission is to make Boulder County a “model ZW Community” and document the slow but steady progress we are making. You can track our progress through our newsletters which are archived on our website. For the most recent issue, go to newsletters/pdfs/summer06.pdf.
No longer is the path to Zero Waste seen as a joke or a crazy dream. Rather, it is the ONLY vision and goal that makes sense on a planet with shrinking resources and exploding populations. Zero Waste needs to become the benchmark for every decision we make in the future as we go forward with the task of redesigning the way we live on Earth.
Eric Lombardi is Executive Director of Eco-Cycle.

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