‘Green Strawberries’ ripen annual Glenwood festival for zero waste | PostIndependent.com

‘Green Strawberries’ ripen annual Glenwood festival for zero waste

Amy Hadden Marsh
Special to the Post Independent
Christopher Mullen / Post Independent
Christopher Mullen |

Be on the lookout for green strawberries this year at the 116th Strawberry Days celebration.

No, you won’t find them in your (compostable) cup of free strawberries and ice cream. They’ll be roaming Sayre Park and taking out the trash.

These volunteers, dressed in green T-shirts, are helping the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association (GSCRA) reach its goal of “zero waste.”

Alyssa and Dave Reindel, owners of Evergreen Events, are in charge of solid waste disposal efforts at the festival. Originally from Boulder, the Reindels have been coordinating zero-waste events in the Roaring Fork Valley since 2008.

“We’re doing this because you really can go about your life and not have a huge impact on the planet,” explained Alyssa.

This is their third year with Strawberry Days, and it’s paying off.

“In 2011, we were only recycling [glass and aluminum] and there was a 50 percent diversion rate by volume,” said Alyssa.

That means 50 percent less garbage went to the landfill. Last year, the diversion rate skyrocketed to 85 percent by adding composting and cardboard and cooking grease recycling.

This year, all food vendors, including the beer garden, are required to provide compostable and recyclable utensils, cups and plates.

The compost goes to the Pitkin County landfill, and Carbondale-based Mountain Roll-Offs hauls the rest away.

Marianne Virgili, GSCRA president, said food vendors have not complained.

“They’re all very responsible and, it’s a normal practice with festivals now,” she said.

Before Evergreen Events got involved with Strawberry Days, festival recycling efforts fell flat. Alyssa says it’s all about set-up.

“You can’t just throw [recycling] on at the last minute,” she explained. “It just doesn’t work.”

The Reindels agree that “upstream education,” such as coaching food vendors ahead of time and mapping out strategic locations for garbage bins, is a must.

“The bins follow the flow of the crowd,” explained Alyssa. “We put them at the entrance, the exit, the food court, and where people generally hang out.”

Each bin has three containers for trash, compost, and co-mingled glass and aluminum items. All you have to do is match your garbage with the correct container and throw it in. Sort of like a carnival game and the prize is a cleaner, more livable planet.

“By doing this, we are negating the use of virgin material,” said Alyssa. Like, clear-cutting forests for single-use napkins and paper plates. And, she pointed out, “We’re putting soils back by composting.”

If you’re not sure which goes where, the Green Strawberries will be on hand to help. And, if a can ends up in the compost, the volunteers will literally dig in and sort it all out.

“We train the volunteers ahead of time,” added Alyssa. “They help out with community improvement and education.”

The Green Strawberries Program cost $3,000 this year, about 2 percent of the overall Strawberry Days budget, and is sponsored by local engineering firm, SGM.

Almost 3,000 people line up for free strawberries and ice cream after the Strawberry Days parade. Virgili said the disposable cups and spoons that used to be donated by local restaurants now cost the GSCRA $800 – all because they’re compostable.

But, she said it’s worth it to reduce Glenwood’s carbon footprint.

“As the Chamber of Commerce, we should be an example for using best business practices,” she explained. “Being a sustainable community is the most important thing you can do to increase your bottom line.”

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