Street Fair Sustainability

Directional Sign Showing the way to the Sustainability Zone

by, Liz Rutledge

The Park Hill Home Tour and Street Fair just celebrated 41 years of sharing community, entertainment, good food and access to beautiful homes in one of Denver’s Sustainable Neighborhoods.  This well-established event involves people in the neighborhood opening their homes (usually between four and eight homes) as well as a street fair with up to 100 vendors, food trucks, drinks, live entertainment, as well as presentations.  Consequently, the Park Hill Home Tour and Street Fair is the largest fundraiser for the Greater Park Hill Community – an organization that supports the neighborhood through a monthly local newspaper, a food pantry and farmers market as well as many other events and services. 

Mindfulness about Our Community in Action

This year, I partnered with Becky Migas of B. Green Events to manage the sustainability aspects of this event.  It was a beautiful, sunny day…not too hot, not too cold and not a cloud in the sky.  As we set up waste stations around the parkway, 85+ vendors set up their tables and tents.  Bicycle bells chimed and the gentle hum of generators for the food trucks purred.

I have been involved in this event for seven years in various capacities. For example, our home has been on the tour and I have written up descriptions of the homes along with another local writer for years.  But, last year, I was invited to help with the sustainability efforts of the event and help with vendor registrations.  For the first time ever, we added electronics recycling.  It was an experiment and we had great participation, but it cost people money (about 50 cents a pound) and the fundraising aspect wasn’t as successful as we had hoped.  But, this year we had PCs for People accepting electronic donations for little to no cost and the Cherry Creek Rotary Club helped hugely to accept all the PCs, laptops, cables, TVs and more.  Last year, there was also a Sustainability Zone.

In the Zone

This year, in the Sustainability Zone, we had several vendors educating fair-goers about bees with Vine Street Farms, reducing packaging and exploring refill options with Joy Fill, how to get around town without using a car with the Northeast Transportation, getting help tuning and optimizing your bicycle with Bikes Together, how to reduce our harm to the coral reefs with Coral Reef Restoration Panama, and how to live more sustainability and lower our carbon footprint with Sustainable Three and B. Green Events.  We had a “Minute to Bin It” challenge where players had to correctly put the right item in the right bin within 60 seconds, articles about our previous waste diversion projects, like East High School’s After Prom event last spring and guidance on how to reduce waste to the landfill – one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gasses.

10 Factors that made this a Sustainable Event

  1. ALL vendors were required to use certified compostable ware (cups, plates, cutlery, etc)
  2. Vendors had to provide proof that the serving ware was compostable.  And, if it wasn’t, they had to replace the items or leave (thankfully, everyone complied and no one had to leave)
  3. Waste stations were positioned all over the event to make it EASY for attendees to deal with their waste, minimizing contamination and littering
  4. Volunteers were trained to sort, collect, weigh and empty the waste bins into their appropriate wheelie bins (provided by neighbors)
  5. Neighbors provided Recycling, Compost and Landfill bins to minimize cost and eliminate the need for expensive and unsightly roll-away dumpsters
  6. Educational pieces were sprinkled throughout promotional materials (posters, programs and on the web site)
  7. A Sustainability Zone was established and managed providing fun and education for attendees
  8. Electronics recycling was available for little to no charge on the day and volunteers from the Rotary Club managed it so our team could focus on the Sustainability Zone and waste management.
  9. People were encouraged to walk or bike to the event and the homes on the tour (free bicycle parking available at all homes and the street fair)
  10. Denver Water had their truck there to provide water for patrons – either using their own water bottles or compostable cups
Puttin’ it in the correct bin!

Then, the Skies Opened up…

The event was well attended and the weather held out until the very end when we did our waste sorting and weighing (so we can report back to the Greater Park Hill Community and have baseline numbers for future years).  As we were sorting and cleaning up, the skies opened up in a deluge, which made it challenging, but we still think we got accurate numbers.  Once all the numbers were in, we were proud to report an 82% diversion rate!  The next morning all the recycling, compost and trash was collected by Denver Waste Management.  PBS was there the next day filming for a documentary that will air at the end of October/early November.  Neighbors who had donated their bins for the day received their bins back empty (for the most part) AND, best of all, there was NO waste remaining on the parkway (something that neighbors have complained about in the past).

It was a satisfying experiment and provides hope for future events.

It’s the choices we make in our daily lives that can make little shifts in this adventure called climate change.

Denver Water Truck dispensed 94 gallons of water to people in their own reusable bottles or compostable cups diverting ~750 plastic water bottles from the waste stream
Becky Migas of B. Green Events calculated our waste diversion results

Even more ways to Support Sustainability

As we learn and gradually change our habits, we can make a difference in other, more impactful, ways too:

  • Support the bigger players where there is more impact
  • Support businesses and organizations that are focusing on sustainability
  • Donate to non-profits like the Sierra Club, Greenpeace, The Nature Conservancy, NRDC, and other organizations doing the work.
  • Pressure businesses to move towards more environmentally-friendly ingredients and practices
  • Boycott businesses that are still doing things that damage our environment and our health
  • Sign petitions and lobby

Reading blog posts like this one can help keep you educated.  You can make tweaks in your habits.  But, to make a more effective impact, think bigger and put some of the pressure and responsibility on the companies and organizations that have the power to make big changes towards sustainability.

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Green Up Your Garments

Lisa Curwen

Eco-Fashionista

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Curwen, a fashion industry veteran and founder of Lisa Curwen Studio.  She got her Master’s degree studying, researching, and publishing on the subject of sustainable practices for the fashion and textile industry. She is a former treasurer of Fashion Group International (FGI.org) and has taught an Eco Fashion course as an adjunct faculty member of the Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design (RMCAD). She really knows her fabrics.  Read on!

Interview with Lisa Curwen:

S3:  What do you focus on mostly in your studio?

LISA:  Recently, I have been designing tablecloths and tea towels for a company called Amelie Michel.  The company is located in Connecticut, but will be having a pop-up sale in Denver at Wash Park Studio. Thursday Sept. 13th through Wednesday September 19th, 10am-5pm every day.

I have also designed home furnishings textiles, many of which are sold in showrooms in the Denver Design Center and at Calico Home. In addition, I re-upholster furniture as a hobby.

 

S3:  What do you see as the more sustainable aspects of the fashion industry?

LISA:   Sustainble practices must include the social (fair labor practices), the environmental (non-toxic techonology and organic farming), and the economic aspects (being able to make a profit). All three have to be present to have a viable model. Historically, it used to be much harder for companies to be profitable while implementing sustainable practices in both the labor market and environmentally friendly textile manufacturing; but it is more accepted now, and almost required, for companies to operate in a socially responsible manner.

 

S3:  What are some ways the fashion industry practices sustainability?

LISA:  Reduce the amount of packaging, reduce transportation (energy usage) in the supply chain by using smaller and more local supply chains, reduce water usage and pesticides for farming, make sure effluents from textile manufacturing don’t go into water supplies,  create prodcuts that use closed loop lifecycles.

 

S3:  What is the best way for fashion consumers to support eco-fashion?

LISA:  First and foremost, do research on companies.  Find the ones that are more socially responsible and support them. 

Consume less! Launder clothing in cold water and hang or dry flat to reduce energy usage. The biggest load on the environment comes at the consumer level in the care of clothing.  Buy organic cotton products.  Avoid textiles that use a lot of chemicals in their manufacturing such as rayon and leather products, however Tencel (trademark symbol) is an environmentally friendly brand of rayon. Resell, recycle, or repurpose your garments. Buy wool, alpaca or PLA (a naturally derived polyester).

 

S3:  What other choices can fashion consumers make to live more sustainably?

LISA:  Buy fewer new clothes and ones that have longevity.  Frequent thrift stores and consignment stores.

Beware of “green washing”! 

Research companies for authentic certifications – Listen to/watch the news and watch for business practices.

Put pressure on companies to be more ecologically/sustainability focused.

Support initiatives that are more sustainability focused.

 

S3:  Do you think “slow fashion” hurts fashion trends?

LISA:   Slow fashion is just a different way to approach fashion.  For instance, it might mean buying more classic styling that can be worn for a longer time.  One could always accessorize with updated fashion items, but keep the bulk of their wardrobe changing less frequently.

 

S3:  What do you see as the number one choice people can make towards living more sustainably?

LISA:

#1:  Reduce energy usage (Consume less, drive less, recycle, reduce at home, change diet, invest in LED light bulbs, change climate controls to be more eco-friendly, turn off lights, etc.)

#2:  Compost (Divert from the landfill)

#3:  Buy less (See above tips)

 

S3:  Which companies would you suggest people who are passionate about slowing the effects of climate change invest in?

LISA:  Socially conscious companies.  Invest from the heart.  Vote with your wallet.

Having said all that, it is super challenging to be a purist.  Taking steps to be more green with your garments is a start.

Here are some tips to “green up” your garments:

  • Go to or host clothing swaps (have a party with friends and swap outfits)
  • Fix it when it’s broken (sew back on buttons, darn socks, repair zippers, tears, etc.)
  • Give clothing to charities when you’ve out grown them. Even clothes that can no longer be worn are useful for certain charities like The Little Red School House which turns fabrics into rags for shops and cleaning companies.  (Second hand clothing is sent to other countries like Kenya)

 

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