Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Hide the garbage cans - the rest will follow aka 100% ZERO-WASTE Events

YEAR 1 (for me) - 2013

The Neighbour Savour IV Potluck was set to occur October 8, 2013 from 6-9pm. This year, I noticed that in the event write-up, the words Zero Waste appeared, that of course caught my eye! I was delighted to attend, especially because I saw the words "Zero-Waste" appear in the title.

I was excited to see how the evening would unfold, and how zero-waste would be approached - as the concept can have varied meanings for many people.

There were re-usable cutlery, ceramic plates, glasses, and mugs - a sure sign we were off to a good start. But then it came time for clearing the plates. I realized quickly that there was no spot for compost and my heart broke. I quickly decided I'd convert the glass container I brought my potluck item in (as it was now empty), into a compost holder, surely we wouldn't have that much assuming none of us were wasting food on our plates!

Unfortunately, someone thought that was a dirty bowl that needed washing, depite the sign next to it which read "Compost", dumped it in the garbage, and proceeded to take it to the kitchen. I had walked away and was cleaning up other stuff so I was not there to witness this or of course I would have explained the situation. But as I walked up to check on the scene, this is when I noticed my bowl was gone, and there was a lot headed into the garbage!

Asking people if they knew where it went, or what was going on, I was matched with looks of confusion and chaos as if I was speaking a different language. This confused me utterly because generally folks at a Village Vancouver event, especially one with Zero-Waste in its title would be more aware than most....

Long story short - I ended up taking the garbage  bag home with me (and to be fair, 1 big black garbage bag for 200+ people isn't so bad but....of course we can do better!)....and sorted it at home.

My roommate certainly wondered what the heck I was doing but she knew me well enough by now to not be too shocked to see me walk in the door with garbage - most people leave their front door with garbage.... I like to do things a little different. Actually I don't like it.....because it is the result of humanity being on auto-pilot, and of course it's entirely unsustainable for me to take garbage home, sort it, and clean the recyclables (waste water, no less)  that have been soiled with food waste.

Here are some pictures, diversion rate after I was done with it? 100%....

For comparison sake, what's Metro Vancouver's diversion rate, you ask?

The stats I have, as at the most recent Sustainability Breakfast in Dec 2014, showed a current diversion rate of 60%, which they would like to be at 70% by 2015 (I guess that's this year...felt a lot further away in December 2014), and 80% by 2020.

While it sounds admirable, I say...we can do better Metro Vancouver! Why not aim for 100%? Even if we don't reach it, isn't it better to have a goal of 100%? I think so! And 100% IS possible, I live it every day (so do the other members of the collective house I'm living in), and we did it at these events, too.  Photo evidence, below...it IS possible!

This was the bag that came back home with me. We rode the bus together, along with my friend Peter. A great zero-waste ally. 

Boo was my little helper. She is a zero-waste kitty warrior. :)

This is showing the contents now diverted, bag emptied (was washed to be re-used, as you can see foodbits in the bottom), and the food waste to the right, which was taken to the compost. 

Had this all been sorted before it hit the "garbage", it would not have required as much washing - which is of course why proper set-up is key!

 Here's what we ended up with when all was said and done.
Here is everything that was generated at the event - so all in all a very small load which is great! In large thanks to the re-usable dishware/cutlery. But ALL of it can be diverted from landfill, 100% diversion rate. The plastics/foil-lined/unnumbered hard plastics, and numbers that city doesn't take went to Pacific Mobile Depot through Village Vancouver monthly plastic drop-spot, The remainder composted and that's about it!  

YEAR 2 - 2014 - Better Equip, Lessons Learned

The following year, Neighbour Savour V, and I was ready. I contacted the crew and let them know I'd take the reigns to create and manage a zero waste station. I know what we went through last year, and I didn't want the same thing to occur.

Having these re-usable plates and cutlery is incredibly key! (We did have these last year, too!)

Got there early, and set-up shop, having the help of my good friend was incredibly useful too, her and I sat there a good portion of the night and helped people sort their materials into the proper bins. I also went back and forth into the kitchen to explain that soft plastics with food had to be first rinsed/washed before we could recycle them.

The ultimate step 1? Hide all garbages.  I can't stress this enough. When people cannot find the garbage then they start to think "what can I do with this?" They usually find a better solution to the auto-pilot garbage bag toss. We have become so accustomed to tossing stuff that when a garbage is present, even if it's next to a recycling bin and a compost bin, it will, more often than not, end up in the garbage....we get on auto-pilot, too many other things running through our minds. I get it. So just hide the garbage cans and it will save you a tonne of frustrations and grief.

Our zero-waste station. My friend and I sat on either side, and helped people when they came with materials to renew. 

I made signs for the station, but I made signs in other places too - the bathroom, for paper towel (ideally we'd have a re-usable towel roll, or mini hand towels but we worked with what we had).

This was in the upstairs bathroom (the only one I thought existed until mid-way)

Where the garbage used to be, I put this sign as I figured folks may have remembered from last year a garbage here. 

Shhh, don't tell: Garbages were sill around, (in the below photo they are at the very back and to the left), but no-one will search that hard for a garbage....however, just in case.... I put a little sign on it. Gotta play it safe. 

Garbages hidden? Check

It wasn't until mid-way through, as people started showing up, I learned there was another bathroom, downstairs, this time, genders were seperated. So, I made some signs, ensured the men's was clear and replaced the garbage with the compost collector. :) Phew, close call!

 So - what did we end up with?

City recycling (blue bin, and yellow bag), compost (green and white buckets), and one bucket of soft plastics/foil-lined recycling to go to Pacific Mobile Depot. I was able to take the recycling, and compost as I was living super close to the hall at the time, and Ross was able to take the soft plastics. Thanks Ross! 
BIG thank-you to everyone who attended the event, used the system in place, and participated in a zero-waste potluck. We couldn't have done it without you! 

200+ people served. 
That's how it's done, yo, that's how it's done. 

Here are some other photos from the Green Party Gala - 2014 Fundraiser; also a zero-waste event. Warms my heart! :) Especially nice to meet and work with the event coordinator who was equally as passionate and dedicated to zero waste as I am - what a treat! 

Garbages? Hidden

Diversion Rate? 100%

...And, of course, Elizabeth May - doing her thing. :)