Favorite Garden events like Japanese Festival, Chinese Culture Days and Best of Missouri Market easily host over 50,000 visitors each year, just on these eight days. Festival crowds enjoy festival food. This used to leave mountains of festival waste, but that changed at the Garden in 2014. Thanks to our Zero Waste Ambassador volunteers – and with strong support from our guest vendors - we compost or recycle over 90% of all food and beverage waste from our Garden Signature Events. Every time, for five years and counting!
Led by staff of the EarthWays Center, the Garden’s sustainability division, a dedicated company of students to seniors will volunteer for one or more four-hour shifts at each event. Zero Waste Ambassadors work in the shade of our colorful waste station tents. They direct festival guests to deposit all food and serving ware waste into quickly-filling compost bins, and to recycle beverage bottles and cans. And they knowledgably field constant questions:
“You mean I can compost this plastic cup and fork?”
“Yes! That plastic is made from plants!”
“Where will all this compost go?”
“St. Louis Composting, our town’s commercial composter, will transform it into soil amendments – to grow more healthy plants!”
Visitors of all ages appreciate the Garden’s efforts to divert these impressive amounts of waste from the landfill, on the weekends when we draw great crowds, and year-round in our restaurant and internal meetings.
Our other essential partners in this work toward Zero Waste are our festival food and beverage vendors. Restaurants, non-profits and entrepreneurs all comply with the Garden’s ALL COMPOSTABLE requirement: they only use plates, cups, utensils and other ware that is Certified Compostable.
Pictured above: Garden President Peter Wyse Jackson presented “Honorary Green Team” cards to Japanese Festival vendors when our All Compostable requirement went into effect in 2014.
The EarthWays staff helps our vendors source compostable versions of the many kinds of serving products they need, supporting vendors of Sushi to Sno-Cones! We encourage them to work with another key partner, Garrett Paper, a locally-owned supplier of single-use products that specializes in understanding and stocking compostable product lines. When a vendor needs an unusual item, like a Bento Box or sample-sized wine cup, we identify online sources of certified compostable versions of this kind of ware. Compostable brands are typically more expensive than conventional plastic and paper items, and our vendors generously – and proudly - support the Garden’s sustainability measures.
YOU can join this effort too! Zero Waste Ambassador training sessions are offered several times each year. Kat Golden, Education Manager, and other members of the EarthWays Center team, teach volunteers all you need or may want to know about recycling, composting and talking to Garden guests.
Once you’ve taken the training, you can sign up to work Zero Waste at events. Volunteers enjoy free admission to events when both members and the public are ticketed. Why not work with a friend? You can share the Zero Waste experience, and all the festival fun of your volunteering day.
Zero Waste Ambassador efforts DO make a difference, by reducing the waste-line of the Garden’s biggest annual events, and by spreading awareness of the value of everyday green actions we all can do!