Sponsor Spotlight: Save that Stuff!
Since the Boston Local Food Festival’s inception, waste management company Save That Stuff has been helping it work towards its goal of a zero-waste event. The company is experienced at event recycling, with clients such as the AIDS Walk, the Walk for Hunger, and the Boston Marathon spaghetti dinner at City Hall, which achieved a 94% waste diversion rate with more than 10,000 people. How does the company handle the BLFF’s 40,000 visitors? To find out, I spoke to partner Adam Mitchell, who oversees event recycling.
What is Save That Stuff’s mission?
Our old mission was providing companies with an environmentally sound alternative to waste disposal. Our tagline used to be “We’ll Take It.” That was a reflection of the time that the company started, because originally we were a cardboard-only recycling company and we diversified into all these other services. Our new tagline is “One Goal: Zero Waste.” That really is our mission in this decade, to help our business partners get to a 90% diversion rate.
What’s your background with the Boston Local Food Festival? You’ve been there from the beginning?
Yes, as a board member. It was a project of the Sustainable Business Network that we were super excited to participate in, to raise the exposure of the organization and to expose the public to what a zero waste event is like.
What is the setup like?
It’s three streams of material: trash; recycling; and compostable products, including food waste, cutlery, and plates. We’re also trying to raise the consciousness of the vendors who attend the event, who may not have been exposed to a zero waste event before, and help educate them on how to procure the compostable products, so hopefully they can incorporate that into their daily lifestyle.
Do you use volunteers or Save That Stuff employees?
The last two years we’ve had three or four Save That Stuff staff on site, helping the volunteers transport that material to the central storage area. This year’s going to be a little bit different because it’s on the Greenway, and the Greenway is handling trash and recyclables. So we’re going to work in conjunction with them to add the compost component.
Public events are a challenge as far as recycling and composting goes, and it took the commitment of the organization to have volunteers stationed at intermediate collection points to help guide people where to put stuff. At any large festival, volunteers are the key to making it or breaking it. I really can’t stress that enough. Good volunteers make good festivals happen.
Have you had any issues with contamination?
All public events have challenges to keep the product clean. It’s very difficult to get 100% compliance, especially when you have so many people. If you turn your back for a second stuff can get thrown into the wrong spot. Quality control efforts—having it brought to the central storage area—is a very important part of it, making sure our farm-based composters can actually receive the stuff and turn it in to something that’s usable. So it’s a partnership between the volunteers, ourselves, and our compost partners.
Is there an educational component to this, too?
We had a table the last two years, handing out finished compost and having lots of great conversations with people about how they can reduce their waste generation. One of the most effective ways that we’ve found to open their eyes about the composting process is to put the finished product, the loam, the fertilizer, into their hands, so they can understand that it really is a soil-to-soil process. When you say, “We don’t want plastic gloves and shards of glass in the loam that you’re planting your rose bushes in,” it really has a big impact on folks.
What was your most memorable experience at the festival?
I met one of my newest employees at the first festival. Matt Messer was a student at Boston University very interested in sustainability issues, and I had a great conversation with him. I tried to recruit him as an intern, but he had to go experience Wall Street for himself as a summer intern to figure out that wasn’t a path he wanted to launch in his life. Two years later he’s employed by Save That Stuff, and he’ll be down at the festival helping to make it a success.
This post was written by Brenda Pike of Pragmatic Environmentalism, check her out!