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Zero Waste Events: Imagine No Dumpsters in Sedona Verde Valley

By Darcy Hitchcock, Sustainability Alliance

Have you ever been troubled at local events, struggling to find a recycling bin or noticing the piles of single-use plastic bottles? Or have you gone to a conference and gotten a bag full of useless goodies that end up in your trash?

It doesn’t have to be this way. More and more, event providers are striving for zero waste. (The industry defines zero waste as at least a 90 percent diversion from landfill so this standard allows a small percentage of landfill trash.) With proper planning and local resources, you should be able to recycle or compost virtually everything.

At Keep Sedona Beautiful’s recent Native Plant Workshop, Nancy Spinelli explained, “We requested that vendors provide virtual coupons instead of paper versions. We asked everyone to bring a reusable water bottle or coffee mug. For those who might forget, we borrowed and sanitized ceramic mugs for coffee rather than use paper or Styrofoam. We saved money and paper by cutting the size of our program from 8 pages down to four. And we provided composting buckets for food waste, paper plates and napkins.”

The Yavapai/Apache Nation Earth Day Celebration, put on in cooperation with the Town of Camp Verde, was another example of striving to be a zero waste event. Leslie Fox, who heads Cornucopia Community Advocate’s new Food Recovery Program said, “I put a recycle box and a bucket for compost at each trash can. I can accept meat, cheese, and even compostable dishes in the compost. The compost will be taken to the Bradshaw Family Farms which have compost piles that are hot enough to compost all the organic matter.”

Damian Bruno, a realtor who got certified as a Sustainable Business, was the first to ask the Sustainability Alliance if they might also certify events. He is part of a team that puts on a community BBQ in the Village of Oak Creek each year and was disturbed by the comingling of trash and recyclables. “People are distracted so they just toss things without looking at the labeling on the container. Most of the waste was water bottles.” This year, Darcy Hitchcock met with Bruno to help him identify practical actions to reduce waste, including providing a water station instead of individual water bottles. In the press leading up to the event, Bruno will ask people to bring a reusable water bottle. Hitchcock connected him with the Alex Rovang at Sedona Recycles who can support their event by providing bins and advice.

In response to Bruno’s suggestion, the Sustainability Alliance has just published a guide, Make Your Event Sustainable—Step 1: Zero Waste, which can help any event planner—whether it be for a wedding, conference or community event—reduce the trash they generate. Events can get certified as Zero Waste Events if they commit to the 16 practices on the checklist. Go to http://www.sustainabilityallianceaz.org/p/zero-waste-events.html to learn more. If all the local festivals and events became certified, it would build the Verde Valley’s reputation as a sustainable destination. Let’s make this standard practice.

If you provide a service that supports zero waste events (eg, catering, recycling, composting, dish/glass rental) and want to be added to the listing of local resources, contact [email protected]