If you’ve been the organizer of an event, whether it’s a family picnic, office party or large festival, you know that the idea of eliminating waste going to the landfill is a daunting task. We are a society of disposables – buy it, use it once, and throw it away. Except that it is clear now that there is no such place as “away”. Plastics are choking our oceans, littering beaches, harming wildlife, and showing up in the human food chain as well.
Since the first Sedona VegFest in 2017, we have sought to make this a “zero waste” event (diverting 90% or more of waste from the landfill). This is not easy. It is simple and cheap (on the front end) to buy and discard -- complicated and expensive to reduce, reuse and recycle. But our planet pays the costs for cheap. In 2017 and 2018 we used “compostable” dishes and utensils for our lunch service. But then we learned that these items are truly only compostable in an industrial composting facility – which we do not have in Sedona. We set up stations where attendees could separate their trash and recyclables – except many people didn’t do it, so the recyclables were contaminated and many ended up in the landfill. We gave out swag bags with coupons, food samples and special offers, and much of this also ended up in the trash bin.
All of this is disheartening, but it is also instructive, and we are committed to doing better. We have learned from these experiences, and we’re redoubling our efforts in 2019, using the Sedona Sustainability Alliance “Zero Waste Events Checklist” as a guide.
At Sedona VegFest on January 19 and 20, look for these features that set Sedona VegFest apart from other events:
• Reusable plates and silverware for our lunch service
• Reusable mugs for hot drinks at the concession stand
• We have asked our exhibitors to reduce or eliminate disposable items
• All food waste will be composted by Sedona Compost. (Sedona Compost picks up food scraps weekly from Sedona area homes and businesses.)
• Volunteer-staffed “Waste Stations” to ensure that waste and recyclables are properly sorted.
• We will be “straw free” in conjunction with the Sedona Chamber’s “Straw Free Sedona” initiative.
• The “Swag Bag” will not have swag. Attendees will receive a reusable tote to keep for samples, books and other items they purchase at VegFest, but instead of the bag being stuffed with stuff, they will receive a “Virtual Event Bag” via email. The Virtual Bag will be loaded with special offers from our exhibitors and other merchants. We invite local Verde Valley businesses to place a promotional offer in the Virtual Bag. For just $50, your coupon or other promotional offer will go to everyone attending the Sedona VegFest. (Click here for more information.)
We’re asking attendees to help by:
• Bringing a reusable water bottles or hot beverage cup, or purchasing one at VegFest - and not bringing plastic, disposable water bottles.
• Taking only what they will use in terms of napkins and other disposables.
• Helping our waste station monitors by putting discards in the proper receptacles.
It would be much simpler not to do all of this, but since our mission includes improving human, environmental and animal health and welfare, we believe it is important to be consistent in this in all of our actions. We invite you to come to Sedona VegFest, and join us in this effort.