Eliminating trash on Earth Day | SierraSun.com

Eliminating trash on Earth Day

Julie Brown
Sierra Sun

Created in the spirit of environmental stewardship, any Earth Day event would not live up to its name without an ambitious waste management program.

So it’s no wonder that a dedicated committee avidly fine tunes the Tahoe Truckee Earth Day event’s waste-management policy ever year, to the point of eliminating trash altogether ” or “darn near” close.

“It means planning the event so that the amount of waste produced is minimized, hopefully to a level of zero,” said Madonna Dunbar, who sits on the Tahoe Truckee Earth Day zero-waste committee. “It’s a very ambitious goal.”

Considering that last year’s event attracted some 5,000 people to the Village at Squaw Valley, managing the waste left by thousands, so that only the bare minimum would be thrown away, is quite the feat.

Less than 10 percent of the waste generated in last year’s event was left as just plain old dirty trash.

“We got to 90 percent of our zero-waste goal,” Dunbar said.

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This year they intend to come even closer. And adopting a carbon-neutral goal will help.

Earth Day Co-Chair Beth Ingalls, who is also the Director of the Truckee Climate Action Network, promoted the carbon-neutral policy for this year. Coordinators will tally the number of people driving, riding their bike or walking to the event and then purchase carbon offsets to neutralize the emissions.

If more than 5,000 people show up, Ingalls estimated the event will need to offset 60 tons of carbon.

“I felt a real obligation to help make the event go that direction this year,” Ingalls said. “I think it’s becoming more and more common for events to be carbon neutral.

So we wanted to get on that bandwagon.”

Biodegradable cups, utensils and to-go containers made by Tahoe Green Packaging will be distributed to all of the vendors in the Village by the Squaw Village Neighborhood Company.

Compost is the direction the Village is looking to head towards year-round, said Caroline Ross, director of the Squaw Village Neighborhood Company.

Zero-waste stations will replace garbage cans.

“We’re actually getting rid of all our garbage cans for the day,” Ross said. “And we’re going to rely on the zero-waste stations.”

Volunteers will be available to educate the public on which bin is for plastic soda bottles and which is to throw away leftover food.

“The beauty of having this zero-waste [policy] at the event is it actually gets people to rethink their habits,” Dunbar said. “It’s very interactive and educational. And everybody has garbage.”

Instead of providing bottled water to the event’s musicians, water stations with biodegradable cups will hydrate bands. Booth sponsors were instructed to minimize flyers and paper handouts. And whoever can guess how much total trash, compost and recycling will be collected at the end of the day will receive a year’s supply of blue recycling bags.

All of the compost, including leftover food and biodegradable products, will be transported down to Full Circle Compost in Minden, Nev. where it will take 180 days or so to decompose. The decomposed compost will return to the Lake Tahoe Basin where it will be planted in a demonstration garden created by the Incline Village General Improvement District’s Waste Not program.

Recyclable products, including plastics, bottles, glass and aluminum cans, will go to the processing facility at Cabin Creek.

“I have nothing to say but great things about the way the community supports Earth Day,” said Dunbar, who has been involved in the annual event since it was revived in 2000. “To see this thing blossom into such a community event, I’m just stunned and delighted.”

The annual Earth Day Festival will be held on Saturday, April 26 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Village at Squaw Valley.

Group bike rides to the Earth Day Festival are taking place from both Truckee and Tahoe City on Saturday. In Tahoe City, meet at 64 Acres at 9:30 a.m. and in Truckee, meet at the pullout just south of the Mousehole. Ride with friends and family to Earth Day and then check in at the Truckee Climate Action Network booth for your free raffle ticket for being Carbon Neutral.

TART will be offering free bus transportation to and from the event from North Lake Tahoe, Incline Village and Truckee. TART riders will also get a free raffle ticket and should also check in at the TCAN booth.

For more information, visit http://www.tahoetruckeeearthday.org.