Ask Eartha: What Does Zero Waste Mean?

 In Ask Eartha

Hey Eartha,

I saw a lot of people in green shirts at the Frisco BBQ and they were helping people recycle. They said they were striving for “zero waste.” What does that mean?

—Dorothy from Blue River

The G Wagon Zero Waste Green Flame Award Winners - Frisco BBQHi Dorothy,

I hope you enjoyed some scrumptious BBQ and I am so glad you noticed the zero waste volunteers! I am a zero waste warrior, so I’m happy to share what zero waste means, the history around why the BBQ is a zero waste event and the results of the zero waste efforts in 2018.

Zero Waste is a sustainability philosophy that different communities define in many ways — but the gist is to prevent waste from ending up in the landfill. Several partners in a community are involved in achieving zero waste goals, and there are many ways to get there. For example, some tactics set forth by the U.S. Conference of Mayors include the following: Considering what goes into the products you purchase and how you can dispose of them later, repairing and reusing items instead of discarding them, and of course, recycling and composting.

Summit County has a goal to achieve 40 percent waste diversion by 2040. In the High Country, our efforts are concentrated on businesses and residents having better access to recycling and increasing volumes of clean, quality recycling and composting. Wouldn’t it be great to establish a zero waste culture in Summit, just like the Frisco BBQ has done on the Kansas City BBQ Challenge Circuit?

As the popularity of the Frisco BBQ has increased over the past 25 years, so has the volume of waste. This is why the town of Frisco wants the festival to be a zero waste event. A lot of effort goes into making this happen. The day of the event, over 100 volunteers organized by High Country Conservation Center dedicate their time to educating the public about what waste goes where. The town of Frisco’s event staff also pitches in. Finally, the BBQ vendors are a key element to this coordination. Vendors who make the best zero waste effort receive the Green Flame award. This year’s award winners include The G Wagon, Midnight Smokers and The Original Berrie Kabob.

Zero Waste at Frisco BBQNow, you might wonder why there is still trash, since the BBQ is a zero waste event. The primary approach to achieving zero waste is through reusable materials. Although containers that you can use more than once are always preferred, single-use containers are the most practical for a festival like the BBQ — with over 30,000 attendees, how would vendors wash dishes, and where? But before the event, HC3 communicates with vendors regarding what type of single-use containers are best to use in Summit County. This year, the recommendations were No. 1 plastic cups and anything with recycled content. So while there is still trash for the BBQ, zero waste means limiting what we send to the landfill by recycling and composting as much as possible.

This year, thanks to everyone’s collaborative efforts, the zero waste crew diverted over a quarter of the total waste generated at BBQ away from the landfill. Wahoo! This means 2,000 pounds of food scraps will be composted and 3,500 pounds of glass, plastic, paper and aluminum will be recycled! I also heard that this was the cleanest material from BBQ ever, which means it will all be recycled and composted.

Zero waste goals and zero waste events have positive impacts. They create opportunities for people to think about how we dispose of waste and how we can all make the system better. And, of course, there are environmental benefits as well. For example, by keeping recyclables and food scraps from BBQ out of the landfill, we saved greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to those generated by 14 cars driven for a whole year. And that’s just in three days!

Dorothy, you and anyone else in Summit County can join the zero waste movement. Make your own goals for your household and consider volunteering for an event. The next opportunity is during the Keystone Bluegrass and Beer Festival on Aug. 4 and 5. All volunteers get T-shirts, food and drink tickets, and good karma from Mother Nature. Call the High Country Conservation Center at 970-668-5703 if you’d like to sign up.

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