“Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.”
The goal for the Zero Waste stations for Green Events is to recycle everything that is recyclable and compost everything that is compostable, and then send as little waste as possible to the landfill. We measure this by weight, and the six events I’ve worked we have had a 95% or better diversion rate. This means that only 5% of the waste generated at the event, by weight, goes to the landfill. The rest goes to be recycled or composted.
Vendors in this town are pretty good about buying the most eco-friendly products (utensils, cups) they can. Before the event I go around to the vendors and figure what can be recycled and composted. So besides figuring what waste goes where for the waste stations, I sometimes do this at their counters..
Fortunately, most paper products can be composted, including waxy cups and paper plates with food. Paper is a natural carbon source so it actually helps balance out the nitrogen source from food, like adding dead leaves.
Although the fork in the photo is made of plastic, many vendors are getting utensils made from corn, which can be composted. You can tell if a utensil is made from corn if it bends and doesn’t brake, and typically it won’t be white, but beige. Plastic utensils break when you bend them.
My favorite part of working these events, besides satisfying my neurosis of conservation, is the way people react to my neurotic behavior. I really do block the garbage can with cardboard and eyeball everything being thrown out. I’ll make people wait in line so that I can make sure everything goes in the correct bin. And most people appreciate it. I get many people telling me “Thank you for doing this”, or they will pull their kids aside to watch me be OCD over trash.
So the international definition tells us that the concept ‘Zero Waste’ is not literal, but a goal, to guide us toward Zero Waste.
For bringing the Zero Waste concept home, besides recycling, I think a home compost system is key. Even if you don’t garden, you you can still use your finished compost to fertilize your lawn, trees, shrubs and flowers, while you avoid throwing food into the landfill. See.. A Home Compost System is the Backbone to a good Garden!