Going green part of the fun | AspenTimes.com

Going green part of the fun

John ColsonAspen, CO Colorado
Green Team leader Mark Weinhold shows that you can never go too far in sorting through the trash for recyclables. (Trina Ortega/The Valley Journal)

Given the Roaring Fork Valleys reputation as a center for alternative technologies and conservation ideologies, it is not surprising that among the initiatives here is the greening of fun in the valley. Several of the biggest festivals in the valley each year, from Strawberry Days in Glenwood Springs and the Food & Wine Classic in early June to the upcoming Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day concerts, sport recycling programs to reduce the amount of trash the events send to landfills. And, in the case of the Carbondale Mountain Fair at the end of July, organizers have gone a step further, requiring that their food vendors use compostible forks, knives and spoons, as well as beverage cups.The recycling model Mark Weinhold, the man credited with ram-rodding the Mountain Fairs trend-setting recycling efforts, said that back in 2001, when he first volunteered for the fair as a Green Team member, recycling was not all that successful. Basically, everything went into the garbage, he said, including the content of the recycling bins set up around the park, mainly because fairgoers often would put their trash in the recycling bins and vice versa, causing a nightmare of co-mingled garbage that could not be sorted out. Organizers then came up with the idea of placing Green Team members at every trash can/recycling bin, explaining to people where to put what. It worked, Weinhold said, and other event organizers have adopted the practice to the point where it is not at all unusual to see a young man or woman hanging out at the trash stations, at just about every major event in the valley as a way of ensuring that recyclable refuse can actually be recycled. In 2004, Weinhold began working with organizers of other events, including Strawberry Days and Jazz in the Park in Glenwood, River Day in Basalt and other Carbondale events, including Potato Day, Dandelion Day and the Music in the Park series. The events use the same basic stock of recycling bins each year, which both helps spread the cost of the bins around and creates a familiarity with their appearance and use among the general public. Using Mountain Fair as an example, he said, the recycling program helped divert some of the waste away from local landfills. Waste Management [ the largest trash hauler working in the valley] is very kind to us, he added, explaining that the company changed its fee structure to accommodate the fairs mix of recyclable trash and garbage.Its own plansThe events he has not worked with, he said, are the Jazz Aspen Snowmass music festivals, in June and again over Labor Day weekend. But JAS, according to Jennica Lundin, development and education director, has created its own recycling program, with volunteers standing by at every trash station to show where to put the trash. She explained that because the JAS festival doesnt allow glass containers, the recycling effort only has to deal with aluminum cans. In addition, she said, JAS contracted with the NativeEnergy wind farm energy this year to buy windenergy credits to offset carbon dioxide emissions. By offsetting the CO2 pollution that festival activities such as transporting attendees, gear, powering stages and air travel generate, JAS is taking a proactive role in fighting global warming and helping Native America begin to restore sustainable homeland economies in balance with the Earth, JAS said in a statement June 15. We are a very visible special event in a community where our environment is, not only our first love, but, also our economic engine. Carbon offsets are one thing we can do to help slow global warming, and we felt working with NativeEnergy was a great place to start, said JAS Director Joe Lang, crediting Aspen Renewable Energy Day organizer Chip Comins with arranging a working relationship between JAS and NativeEnergy. Another large-scale party that has taken steps to be more environmentally friendly is the Food & Wine Magazine Classic, which has introduced a program to use cornbased compostible products, recycle wine bottles, corks cans a paper used during the June event, among other efforts. The Classic is a pilot for zero waste events with a focus on recycling, composting and earth friendly products, the organization declared in June statement, which added that there were to be more than 100 recycling containers available for trash disposal at this years Classic. The Classic also is working with the city of Aspens Canary Initiative to conduct an inventory of emissions for the event, including tracking the use of energy from traditional power sources and from generators. The inventory is not meant to include the energy consumed by the travel of participants or goods, according to a statement from the city. This is the type of event we want to have in Aspen, said Calla Ostrander, Canary Initiative facilitator. Food & Wine was so eager to try new things and so receptive to these programs. This effort can become a template for how to run other special events in Aspen with the environment in mind.Compost alternative In 2005, Weinhold said, the next innovation at the Mountain Fair in Carbondale was the use of compostible, corn- based plastic cutlery and cups, thanks to a local volunteer who had seen the compostible goods being used at a festival in Telluride. He said it was not a complete success at first, partially a result of confusion among the customers about where to put what. There also was a reluctance on the part of some vendors to switch to the compostible gear, which EcoProducts of Boulder produces. Weinhold said some vendors already had plastic cutlery left over from previous years and did not want to waste that investment. But, in 2006, We really hit that hard, Weinhold said. We strongly urged the vendors to use the compostible products. Still not satisfied that he was getting complete cooperation, he said, This year, we made it mandatory. The New Belgium brewing company, he said, provides its own compostible cups. Weinhold said one of his volunteers, Bailey Nelson of Carbondale, takes orders from the vendors and places a master order with the Boulder manufacturer of the corn-based products, then delivers the goods to each vendor at the start of the fair. The result, Weinhold said, is that 85 percent of the trash load from the Mountain Fair this year was compostible, placed in bio-bags that also biodegrade over time, which the Caca Loco composting company hauls away. Mountain Fair is the only one that composts at this time, Weinhold said, but others, beginning with Strawberry Days, have shown interest. I consider it to be baby steps, Weinhold said, adding that this year, for the first time, the fair handed out bags of compost material as an educational tool. Were sort of trying to close the loop on that, he explained. It works incredibly well, when you keep two-thirds of your waste out of the dump. John Colsons e- mail address is jcolson@aspentimes.com