Our view: Lessen environmental impact of events
If you attended the barbecue after the Tour de Steamboat on Saturday, you couldn’t miss the bright green “Zero Waste” tent where volunteers from the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council were on hand to instruct people how to properly dispose of their trash. The tent, located prominently near the event’s entrance, was a welcome sight, and one that we don’t see often enough anymore.
This is the second summer that these Zero Waste tents are less visible in Steamboat, due in part to the lack of market demand for food composting. Twin Enviro ended its food waste composting last year because it wasn’t financially feasible. The program required the company to operate a regular truck route to pick up canisters of food from commercial and residential customers, but the amount picked up represented less than 1 percent of total composting.
Even without food composting options, YVSC continues to promote waste diversion and its Zero Waste initiative, and we would like those efforts to receive more support from the community at large.
Since 2009, when the program was started in partnership with Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp.’s Food and Beverage Department, the Zero Waste initiative has been incorporated into 210 events with 68,434 gallons of recyclables and 39,236 gallons of compost collected for a total waste diversion of 107,671 gallons. And going forward, we’d like to see more event organizers embracing zero waste.
Special events, like Art in the Park, the Balloon Rodeo and the Summer Free Concert Series, bring people to town, and these events often provide visitors with their first impressions of Steamboat. If trash is overflowing, and there is no option for proper recycling, we’re sending the message that sustainability is not a top priority for our town, which we think doesn’t reflect our community’s values.
The Steamboat Springs City Council has made stewardship one of its five values, and we believe that should include caring for the environment. With that goal in mind, we encourage council members to re-evaluate the trash and recycling portion of the city’s special event permitting process to encourage a zero waste approach and to make sure the trash and recycling requirements are being met.
Right now, the city requires that event organizers be responsible for providing trash and recycling — aluminum, glass and plastic — receptacles at a ratio of one container for every 50 people if food is part of the event, and one container for every 100 people if no food is served. These guidelines are good, but they must be enforced to be effective.
Recycling requirements tied to events at other resort towns appear to be more stringent than ours, and those measures could be used as a guide to strengthen Steamboat’s approach. The city of Aspen, for example, requires that all events held on city property adhere to Aspen ZGreen criteria, which is outlined in a four-page agreement between the city and the event organizer.
The document promotes ways to reduce waste before the event by prohibiting vendors or participants from giving anything away for free that is not recyclable, reusable or edible. Other areas covered in the agreement include: food waste planning; training on how to assist event patrons with sorting their trash; strategies for reducing trash during the event; and names of the people responsible for hauling off the trash. The city also requires event organizers to report back how much trash, recyclables and compost was collected from the event.
We encourage city leaders to investigate how other cities are handling trash and recyclables at special events and consider adopting stronger requirements. It might make sense for the city to partner with YVSC and allow the nonprofit to sign off on appropriate trash and recycling service for each event and provide organizers with a packet of information on waste reduction techniques — the more education the better.
Ultimately, if we take care of our local environment by having adequate recycling, compost and trash services available at all events, our visitors will be encouraged to take care of the planet as well, and everybody wins.
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