Zero waste efforts rock at 2015 Strawberry Days Festival |

Zero waste efforts rock at 2015 Strawberry Days Festival

Angie Anderson

Growing up, my mother always stressed to me the importance of leaving a place in better condition than I found it. At the time, I thought she was trying to teach me good manners and make sure that I picked up after myself, especially if I was a guest in someone else’s home.

On June 18, 2014, this lesson extended further than I ever could have imagined when I became the mom of a healthy, 7.5-pound baby girl. While my laundry piles increased, so did the size of my heart and my sense of responsibility. The full extent of my mom’s words of wisdom became clear when I realized that I was merely a guest on this earth, and it was important for me to leave it in better condition than I found it so that our Paige and generations after her will be able to enjoy it, too.

Being one person, I understand that I can’t save the world alone. I also realize that bubble wrapping my 1-year-old to save her from harm is just not feasible, although it has crossed my mind. However, as a community, we can take small steps that just might lead toward a more positive future for those after us. One such step is the Green Strawberries Zero Waste Program, of which I am particularly proud to have had a hand in creating as a part of Strawberry Days.

Over the past 118 years of our community festival’s existence, the number of people attending has increased. As with every year, our hope is that as many people as possible can enjoy delicious food, meet up with friends, participate in fun activities, listen to great music or take home one-of-a-kind treasures. However, increasing crowds also present a unique challenge — namely, more trash. Five years ago we felt it was time to do something proactive to lessen our environmental impact, so we partnered with EverGreen Events and implemented the Green Strawberries Zero Waste Program.

The first year we started the program, it was difficult to forecast results. In the past, volunteers kindly sorted through the garbage and picked out as much recycling as possible. We had no way of knowing how much waste was being recycled, and composting hadn’t even crossed our minds. We were just thankful for the effort.

During the first year of program implementation, almost half of the festival waste was diverted from the landfill through recycling or composting. Fast forward five years to 2015, which accounted for 86 percent (14,000 pounds) of festival waste being diverted from the landfill. That’s a pretty big improvement that also translates into an approximate savings of 593 gallons of gasoline and 46,600 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions, reduced demand for limited resources and more.

This all happened because of the collective efforts of a lot of different people. EverGreen Events consulted with food vendors in advance to help purchase recyclable and compostable materials, and they were on site all weekend long keeping things running smoothly. Success of the program would also not be possible without cooperation from food vendors purchasing appropriate materials and the public putting waste in proper receptacles. Community involvement from volunteers is also essential in helping the public sort waste correctly. Of course support from sponsors like SGM, the city of Glenwood Springs and Renewal by Anderson make the Green Strawberries Zero Waste Program a financial possibility.

While we haven’t yet reached our goal of zero waste, I am very proud of our efforts and a team that has worked so hard to get to where we are today. The best part is that we always have fun in the process because we get to celebrate the kickoff to summer in what I think is the most wonderful community of all. It is true that “Glenwood Rocks.”

Five years ago, this program didn’t mean nearly as much to me as it does now. In the beginning, it just seemed like something we should do mostly to keep up with what seemed to be the norm with events like ours. Now I look at it as a step in trying to leave the community where I grew up in better condition than I found it so that my daughter and generations after her can continue to raise their children in this wonderful place. I have no idea what the future of the world will be for my daughter and generations beyond, but if a little composting and recycling at our community festival just might make a difference, I’m willing to give it a try.

Angie Anderson is the VP of operations at the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association.

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