As an event with an emphasis on sustainability, we aimed to have a zero-waste festival using the strategies of Waste Reduction and Waste Diversion as outlined below. Our Zero Waste Plan is in accordance with the Hawaiʻi State Energy Office’s guidelines to qualify as a Green Event. Our Zero Waste Plan was Coordinated by Doorae Shin, who works for Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation on their Plastic Free Hawaiʻi team.
To prevent a high demand on waste management, waste reduction was a focus in our planning stages of the event. We broke this up into two categories: Water and Food.
Reducing Waste Associated With Water
No single-use plastic water bottles were sold or distributed at the event. Free filtered water was offered from a Water Refill station, provided by the Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation. This Plastic Free Hawaiʻi Water Refill Station is a filtered water station made by Cal Custom Enterprises with the support of Klean Kanteen.
This water station has been to 13 events on Oʻahu in the past year, providing over 13,000 people with free filtered water at events such as OceanFest, Art After Dark, Earth Day events and more!
Reducing Waste Associated With Food
All food vendors were required to use foodservice containers that are 100% certified fully compostable, meaning made from plants and able to degrade quickly. No single-use plastic bags, takeout containers (including foam), straws or utensils were allowed at the event. Attendees were instead given compostable or paper foodservice products for their meals and beverages. We educated vendors that they could find compostable products and other non-plastic packaging locally from Diamond Head Distributors for wholesale prices. We received a donation of compostable sample cups for our Learning Kitchen cooking demos from World Centric, a wonderful company distributing compostable products.
Sustainable Coastlines Hawaiʻi (SCH) provided a waste diversion system that allowed event attendees to place materials into a bin with three options: “Compost”, “Recycling” and “Trash”. This allowed us to divert a majority of generated “waste” away from the landfills and towards sustainable waste streams.
We had four of SCH’s Waste Diversion Stations spread around the VegFest O’ahu location. So far, these stations have provided waste diversion at over 50 community events, including: the Vans Triple Crown of Surfing, TEDx Honolulu, Art & Flea, Pro Bowl and more. Over half a million people were reached at these Oʻahu events.
Waste diversion with these stations are effective. The Vans Triple Crown waste audits showed an average diversion rate of 55%. This breaks down to: 27% of materials (by weight) were compostable, 20% were HI-5 cans/bottles and 8% was cardboard.
WASTE DISPOSAL STRATEGY
- Food Waste: Food waste was separated from other waste during the event. After the event it was picked up by a local farmer for composting.
- Food Service Supplies: Compostable foodware containers and supplies, such as utensils, napkins and plates, were separated from other waste during the event and afterwards was taken to be shredded and used as mulch.
- Recyclables: Recyclables were taken to a redemption center after the event. VegFest Oahu is focused on compostable products, so there was only a small amount of recyclables.
- Trash: Any remaining trash was taken to the Keʻehi Transfer Station. Only a minimal amount of trash was predicted to come out of the event since the compostable waste was being diverted.
After the 2016 event, Doorae Shin, the Greening Coordinator, made these observations: “As the Greening Coordinator of VegFest Oahu, I learned a lot. People are not educated on how to sort their waste. We can all use some practice on mindfulness when it comes to trash. I was striving for very little trash, but because of people contaminating the recycling and compost bins, we only diverted a few bags for recycling and compost. My ask to the community is that at events in the future, take just 15 seconds to read the signs and look at the photos before just throwing your stuff wherever! Contaminating the recycling bins often means all of it gets thrown away in the landfills! That includes your blue recycling bin at home! It’s time for a mindfulness revolution when it comes to trash.” In order to do better in 2017, we will plan for a larger event day Trash Management team that includes monitors who stand by the recycling bins all day long and educate people in friendly ways about how to sort the trash as they are disposing of items for maximum success with zero waste.