All you Adventurers know how much waste/trash bothers me. And humans, for some reason, are at their most wasteful when they’re partying. You may remember when fans created fields of trash after the Cubs won the World Series? In fact, the average festival-goer produces nearly twice the waste that same person would produce in his normal daily life! And that statistic is borne out by my experiences cleaning up before, after, and even during festivals. But I’ve also been to festivals that do try to limit their impact and, in my opinion, they end up being better festivals all-around.
That’s a large part of the reason I’ve been working on making one particular festival in my region, GastroFest, more and more sustainable each year: first as a board member of the parent organization, the nonprofit GastroJax, Inc.; then as their eco-advisor; and this year as the festival’s Sustainability Sponsor and chair of the Green Action Committee. That’s right, GastroFest now has an entire sustainability team, and it’s greener than ever. Sit back while I introduce you to the team and take you on a tour of what you’ll see at GastroFest 2017 as well as how you can help make it super-susty!
Since GastroFest is a food festival, let’s start with food and food waste. Sadly, Jacksonville doesn’t have municipal compost yet, so local entrepreneur Tiffany Bess stepped into that void and launched Apple Rabbit Compost at GastroFest 2016. In addition to introducing her business to the city, she collected the fest’s food waste. This year, she’s taking it one step further as a member of the Green Action Committee. She is working with vendors to collect the food waste they generate in preparation for the festival to be composted at her facility.
Mixed food waste that’s collected at the festival will be picked up by Celestial Farms and used to feed their rescued farm animals. You can help by putting all your food waste into the receptacles marked “Compost” before you dispose of the plate or paper boat the food was served on in the recycling receptacle. There will be volunteers on hand to help you dispose of waste properly. And if you post a picture of yourself on social media using the divided waste stations that will be available and hashtag it #GreeningGastroFest, you’ll be eligible to win some really great prizes (more on that in a bit).
Another entrepreneur, Dawn Hutchins of Florida Coastal Cooking, is the plant-based food guru on the committee. Since a plant-based diet results in about half the carbon emissions of the “average” American diet that includes animal products, she’s been working to encourage plant-based and plant-based-friendly businesses and restaurants to become vendors at GastroFest as well as encouraging registered vendors to offer at least one selection free of animal products.
While GastroFest is, by nature, an omnivore food festival, we’ve worked really hard to make it a festival that vegans and vegetarians can enjoy as well. The popular Vegan Wine Tasting event is back, for which the restaurants Orsay and Black Sheep will provide snack pairings for the Natura wines.
Also, there’s a whole Vegan Guide to the fest available that details who will have plant-based tastes and where. And it has all the info. on a line-up of talks and demos that will be of interest to everyone who’s into food, including vegans and vegetarians. TOA will be giving one of those talks at the Jacksonville Library Makerspace. At 1 p.m. I’ll demonstrate how you can use common pantry staples to make your own nontoxic (and cheaper!) cleaning and personal care products.
Plus, posting a pic on social media of you enjoying one of the vendors’ plant-based choices (or the Vegan Wine Tasting, for that matter) with #GreeningGastroFest also makes you eligible for the hashtag campaign contest prizes.
To get back to waste for a second, this year’s recycling sponsor is the UNF Environmental Center, and its coordinator, James Taylor, is another of the Green Action Committee’s members. James has arranged for the fest to make use of the colorful, creative recycling bins that the Environmental Center students have decorated for UNF’s homecoming. We can’t wait to see what they’ve come up with this year! Also, we’ve arranged with Republic Recycling to come pick up and process the waste that will be recycled from this year’s fest.
And I have to give a shout-out to Native Sun, who is our Green Plate Sponsor this year. They funded the eco-friendlier plates for our special events.
We also have a trio of transportation initiatives going on. Since public transportation can reduce harmful CO2 emissions by 37 million metric tons annually, the JTA Skyway will be running (free, of course) from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on March 18.
For those using peddle power to get to Hemming Park, we will have a free bike valet (tips appreciated) available. And for those driving in, we encourage carpooling. In fact, hashtag a pic of your squad in the car, your bike at the valet, or you on the Skyway on fest day, post it with the #GreeningGastroFest hashtag and you too will be eligible for those great prizes!
As you’ve gathered by now, not only will you get the committee’s undying appreciation for helping with these sustainable initiatives and earn your little piece of the planet’s health, but we also want to reward you with something tangible. So, if you post a picture of yourself on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook participating in any of our sustainability initiatives at the fest and include the #GreeningGastroFest hashtag, you’ll be entered to win awesome prizes like gift certificates to local restaurants, movie gift certificates, and some pretty cool “green solutions” prizes from yours truly, like a set of stainless steel straws or a set of reusable grocery bags.
And finally, the Green Action Committee has big sustainability dreams for the fest’s future that are going to require big sponsors. To prove our bona fides to potential sponsors, we need numbers. Fortunately, Amanda Everett, who is pursuing a Masters in Sustainability through the Harvard Extension School, is on the committee. She will be compiling a greenhouse gas emissions inventory and recommendations for the event, which is a LOT harder than it sounds!
Because I think it’s possible to have fun and be kind to the planet at the same time, I hope to see you at GastroFest for local food, beer, music, and good (green) times. Meanwhile, what are some ingenious “eco-friendly” solutions you’ve seen at festivals or events that you’d like to see at Northeast Florida festivals?