P&Cs often run large events for the school or extended community where waste reduction can be considered and large improvements made. It can even become a selling point for your event. How far you take it is up to you, but it is best if everyone is on board about an agreed approach.
The ACT Government’s Actsmart team can help out with their free Public Event program.
Cut down on paper
Go digital for everything! Forget a paper program to hand out to visitors, there’s an App for that! Share your program/venue map digitally before the event or place large (A3 or bigger) versions around your event for easy reference.
Label your bins
Make sure there are recycling and food waste bins as well as garbage bins, or it will all end up in landfill. Actsmart Public Events team can lend you toppers for bins in the standard colours and signage to help make sure that things end up in the right place. Their free advice can save you money, like using existing school bins. Event organisers have found that having all the bins together in ‘stations’ is best and that contamination is reduced by rostering bin monitors to stand by with a smile and pointer.
Encourage re-usable items
There are many approaches to encouraging re-usable, rather than single use, items. For example, you could totally ban single-use plastic bags or bottled water. Make sure to advertise that no bottled water or plastic bags will be available so people know to bring their own. You could even do the same for coffee cups! If visitors forget, you could sell school-branded cloth bags, water bottles and keep-cups. Selling metal straws is another option, while making the event plastic-straw free. If the carrot approach is more your style, how about a raffle ticket or discount for those who bring reusable cups and bottles?
Re-think food and drink containers
As an organising committee, agree on what you are aiming for and look into options for your food and drink containers. You could aim to use only recyclable food packaging, or only biodegradable items. You could even decide to use only ‘proper’ crockery (which can be hired) and wash it up!
People running large events without using throw-away food containers report that out-door wash up stations are not only a pleasant, chatty, community place to be, but that visitors seeing what you are doing helps get more people on board. (Remember that the final rinse needs to be about 72C - a hot water urn can help - and dishes should be air dried).
Also consider providing things like sugar, sauces and condiments in large containers, rather than offering single-serve, packaged portions.
Get stall holders to sign up!
Outside providers of stalls or food can be encouraged to get on board too. You could even make it a condition of coming to your event. Being clear from the outset, about what containers and so on are acceptable, will help.
We know that volunteers can be hard to find at times and reducing waste sounds like just another thing to plan, but it might just engage some different parents and appeal to a new audience – all while showing students the importance of looking after our environment.
This article appeared in ParentACTion Magazine, Term 1, 2019.