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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Mariposa, Mariposa, Will You Marry Me?

Monarch Butterfly in Valle de Bravo

Our next morning was Valentine’s Day and we were headed to the butterfly sanctuary. 

When my children were little and taking Music Together classes and watching “Dora the Explorer”, I heard this folk tale about a butterfly, “La Mariposa”, in which animals enamored by the butterfly would say “Mariposa, Mariposa, will you marry me?” (There’s a bilingual children’s book you can check out that tells the story HERE if you’re interested). That sing-songy phrase was in my mind as we headed to see the butterflies.

We got up at 7:00 and then were out in the patio area of the restaurant by 8:00a.m. for a buffet breakfast of fruit, granola, fresh squeezed juices, fresh hot coffee, and waffles.  By 9:00, we were boarded in the bus and on our way to the Monarch Butterfly Reserve.

The path to the monarchs
My guide on this journey, Francisco

It took about an hour and a half to reach the reserve.  Once there, we paid to pee and then were assigned our horses.  My horse for the day was named “Rosito” and his handler was Francisco.  The handlers lead the horses up a two mile trail (going up a few hundred metres) to a clearing where we saw thousands of monarch butterflies fluttering around.  Trotting along the rocky, dirt path, we were in a flow of orange and black flitting. 

Monarchs enjoying the sun rays

Our guides said they had never seen so many just flying around like that.  After a lovely, long rest enjoying the Monarchs, we remounted our horses and continued up the mountain to a trail where we dismounted our horses and hiked down and over to a most amazing viewing spot.

Taking a Mindful Moment with the Monarchs

The butterflies, clinging like barnacles on the tall, old growth forest trees blended in in perfect camouflage, while others fluttered around, some seeking water in the river below and some seeking nectar in the salvia.

Monarchs clinging like barnacles to an old growth tree

We can help the monarchs with their survival, growth, migration and breeding by planting milkweed, tithonia, salvia, rabbit brush.  Here are 10 suggestions of flora to plant to help and attract butterflies:

http://www.costafarms.com/get-growing/slideshow/top-plants-to-attract-butterflies-to-your-garden

Planting butterfly-beneficial plants will help these Monarchs survive and thrive

That evening, we enjoyed watching the locals mingling in the town square of Valle de Bravo.  It was great to see the lively town pulsing like a Saturday night with love on this Valentine’s Day.

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CHALLENGE DAY 17

Thrift Store Shopping

Sustainable Fashion – Try out a Thrift Store!

Today’s challenge is to explore thrift shopping if you don’t already.  Check out a local thrift store and see what great selection they have for all sorts of items.

Some are better than others, so I would recommend doing your research.

Maybe start here:  Thrift Store Google Search

If you already thrift shop, good for you!  You can do one of the Optional Challenges today!!

(And, as always, if you can’t do the challenge of the day, you can do one of the Optional Challenges)

 

One of the greenest things you can do is reuse.  The clothing industry is incredibly wasteful as people have become more and more trained to essentially throw away their clothes.  (Where previous generations would fix, mend, re-purpose, or hand-down clothing).  Last spring I had the pleasure of interviewing a fashion designer who gave me all sorts of great tips on more green clothing shopping.  (That will be in an upcoming blog post).  But, the best piece of advice she gave me was to thrift shop for clothes.  After you shop and ask around, you will find your favorite stores.  Junior League, Salvation Army, Goodwill, ARC, and many more have lots of options in a variety of scales.  Consignment shops are another option.  Often, you can find high fashion brands – sometimes with the tags still on!

 

Check out Patrice J. Williams’ blog and book!

Looking Fly on a Dime

Here are some other thrift store shopping resources to help you get started (and save money!):

Here’s a fun video:

31 Best Thrift Tips

More helpful tips!:

29 Tips to Rock Thrift Store Shopping

 

8 Thrift Store Shopping Do’s and Don’ts

 

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CHALLENGE DAY 14

Create a Car Kit!

Today’s challenge is to set up a car kit to make zero waste shopping and such easier.

It could be as simple as:

a cardboard box,

a reusable coffee mug,

reusable drink bottle,

reusable straws and cutlery,

cloth napkins,

A to-go/take-away kit

a few Mason jars,

mesh bags for shopping

for produce and such,

and 5-10 reusable shopping bags.

We found this great suggestion on Instagram, but you can do any format that works for you:

View this post on Instagram

CAR KIT: being prepared is probably my biggest trick to maintaining as zero waste as possible. while I keep my reusable bags by the front door so I can remember them before shopping trips, I also have a mini kit in my car in case of emergency. reusable canvas tote, burlap sack, three produce bags, two mini cloth bags, one large and one small jar, a tiny jar, reusable coffee cup, measuring cup, spork, bottle opener, cloth napkin, little cardboard roll with yarn, twine and rubber bands. How do you prepare for ZW emergencies on the go? . . KIT DE COCHE: estar preparado es probablemente mi mayor truco para mantener cero desechos como sea posible. mientras guardo mis bolsas reutilizables por la puerta de entrada para que recuerda antes de ir de compras, también tengo un mini kit en mi automóvil en caso de emergencia. bolsa de lona reutilizable, saco de arpillera, tres bolsas de tela, dos bolsas de tela mini, un frasco grande y otro pequeño, un frasco chiquitito, taza de café reutilizable, taza medidora, spork, abrebotellas, servilleta de tela, rollo de cartón con hilo y bandas de goma. ¿Cómo te preparas para las emergencias de acero basura? . #goinggreen #ecofriendly #ditchplastic #incaseofemergency #zerowastehome #reusables #zerowaste #nontoxicliving #sustainableliving #lifewithoutplastic #goingzerowaste #vidasimple #basuracero #residuocero #ecologico #cerodesperdicio #fueraquimicos #ceroresiduo #natural #encasodeemergencia #sindesperdicio #sostenible #productosnaturales #vidanatural #cerobasura

A post shared by Heidi Violet (@zerowastechica) on

…from ZeroWasteChica (Instagram)

This is a really great break-down:

https://www.tinyyellowbungalow.com/zero-waste-on-the-go-kit/

(see this blog featured image)

 

And, here is a great solution for your purse, back pack or carrier bag:

Photo: BeZero.org

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CHALLENGE DAY 10

Tare It Up!

Packaging…one of the most tedious items to eliminate from our daily lives.  But there’s hope as, more and more, you can bring in your own containers to select stores and get what you’re paying for without having to dispose of/recycle the packaging.  Ironically, my parents generation did this anyway with milk and soda bottles.  They were taught to throw things away.  Now, we can teach ourselves, and the younger generation, to reuse…and save money in the process.

When you buy in bulk, you can not only eliminate packaging, but help your food shopping budget dramatically.  Think 1/3 of the cost, for the same product.

Today’s challenge is to try TARE* shopping.

  1. Find a clean, dry, wide-mouthed container in your home.  (I like to use Mason jars, but Tupperware or other upcycled containers work well too).
  2. If you have a kitchen scale, weigh the empty container (and lid).  Write that weight (pounds and ounces or grams) on the container on a piece of tape with permanent marker.  (If you don’t have a kitchen scale, the store can weigh the empty container for you).
  3. Go to a store that sells in bulk (Natural Grocers, Whole Foods Market, Sprouts, (some) King Soopers (Kroger family), etc….
  4. While at the store, fill your container with the bulk product you are purchasing.
  5. Write down the PLU code – on the piece of tape, a piece of paper (or put it in your phone).
  6. Check out.  Sometimes the cashier doesn’t know how to deal with tare, so here’s where you need to practice some mindful breathing and smile while they (may have to) get a manager to help.

The easiest to try this with is probably coffee as more stores have coffee in bulk.  This may be a very new thing for you to do, so don’t make it harder on yourself than necessary.  Items that frequently come in bulk are seeds, rices, grains, cereals, oats, nuts, etc.  But you can also get nut butters, candy, dried fruit, and much more.

I see this as a process.  People (especially retail stores) are not used to thinking in zero waste terms.  So, you can consider yourself part of the package-free revolution!

If this challenge doesn’t work for you today, do one of the Optional Activities and try it another time when it works with your schedule.

See this side blog about Zero Market for inspiration

*Tare weight /ˈtɛər/, sometimes called unladen weight, is the weight of an empty vehicle or container. By subtracting it from the gross weight (laden weight), the weight of the goods carried (the net weight) may be determined. (Wikipedia)

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Zero Market

I live in Denver, Colorado and there is a fantastic new store called “Zero Market” here.  It’s located in a re-purposed airport building near where I live.  They have lotions, laundry soap, shampoo, shaving cream, toothpaste, tea, essential oils, cleaners, and so much more that people can buy using their own containers.

You can also buy reusable containers here.  They have stainless steel containers and reusable cutlery for waste-free lunches.  For your plastic-bag-free shopping, they have mesh and cotton produce bags.  They have reusable straws, coffee cups, drink bottles, shopping bags, bamboo toothbrushes and much more.

If you’ve taken on the #SustainableThree #WasteNotWantNot2018 DAY 10 challenge of trying buying in bulk using TARE weighted containers, you know it’s a learning process.  Sometimes the learning process is occurring for the cashier at the supermarket who is not used to dealing with TARE/bulk weighing process and ringing up of net weight products. 

Sometimes the learning is for us who have grown up throwing away or recycling packaging for items like cereal, flour, rice, coffee, tea, laundry detergent, shampoo, toothpaste and such.  Knowing that everything goes somewhere and all that packaging either ends up in a landfill or using more fossil fuel energy to be recycled, it can feel really good to shop in bulk.

Zero Market is a store where they’ve fully embraced shopping in bulk and are passionate about reducing packaging.  It’s truly a treat to shop here.

 

Owned by Lyndsey and Jesse Manderson, this store is a pleasure to explore.  Their passion for the planet radiates from the shelves…and their smiling faces.

An ideal field trip might be to put several Mason jars (Mason jars have a standard weight, so no need to pre-weigh and label before going to the store) into a reusable bag in a backpack or bicycle basket and go Zero Market shopping.  On a beautiful day, it would mean fresh air, sunshine, exercise and a conscience cleansing shopping trip.  You could have a coffee at the nearby Logan House cafe while there.  Then, cycle home and put away your items.

I’ve included some photos for inspiration.

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