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Rock the Garden's lessons in zero waste

We get it. It's the end of August and you are way over Rock the Garden and deep, deep into the State Fair, as you should be. However, the numbers on RTG's efforts to create a large zero-waste concert are perfect to ponder as we all stuff our faces at one of the biggest events of our Minnesota year. Nonprofit Eureka Recycling consulted on that very rainy day of music back in June, and after much sorting, composting, and crunching (of numbers) has figured out all the stats on the amount of waste that took place.

It's something to think about as the trash mounts at the fairgrounds.

According to Lynn Hoffman, associate director of communications at Eureka, 78 percent of all discards at RTG were either recycled or composted, and all those music lovers left the equivalent of two ounces of waste per person. Sounds pretty impressive, especially when you think of all the corn dogs, grilled corn on the cob, vodka coolers, gyros, and beers doled out to the crowds.

Many choices, minimal waste
Many choices, minimal waste


However, it's actually a few ticks farther away from Eureka's zero-waste goal than they hoped because of the crapola weather. Turns out that most of us left behind our plastic ponchos, wet blankets (the literal ones, not the figurative), and other rain gear when we departed the lawns of the Walker. Although Hoffman said that many of the items could have been taken home, washed up, and reused, the concert-goers tossed them. Eureka wasn't prepared to take care of so many orphaned tarps.

Compost finds a home.
Compost finds a home.


While it's a bit of a bummer, there is an upside. The food and drink vendors were planning and sorting like champs. The more than 100 volunteers who manned the recycling receptacles also did a yeoman's job. And perhaps most importantly, Eureka and the Walker learned a valuable lesson about including provisions for bad weather in their plans.

In all, 2,960 pounds of material were composted, while 1,459 pounds of bottles and cans and 720 of cardboard were recycled. That's not too shabby. So next year, Eureka and the Walker will remind rockers to bring--and to leave with--only reusable items.

Recyclers work very hard.
Recyclers work very hard.


In the meantime, enjoy the fair, and keep in mind that all these other zero-waste efforts/events are rolling out in September:

Saint Paul Classic Bike Tour, Sunday, September 11, 7:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.

Urban Assault Ride, Sunday, September 11, 9:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. (rescheduled date)

Autumn Brew Review, Saturday, September 17, 10:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.

MN 350 Moving Planet , Saturday, September 24, 2:00-7:00 p.m.

For more info on zero-waste efforts, check out Eureka's website.



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