Roots and Blues eco-educator Carly Pullen stands next to one of numerous compost/recycle/waste stations located throughout the festival grounds this year. (Roots and Blues photo)

Salmon Arm Roots and Blues green initiative diverts truckloads of waste from landfill

Salmon Arm festival organizers thrilled with engagement by vendors, volunteers and public

Salmon Arm’s landfill was spared truckloads of waste thanks to the new compost and recycling initiative at this year’s Roots and Blues Festival.

David Gonella, Roots and Blues executive director, said all the waste that went to the landfill this year fit into one-and-a-half 40-yard containers. This was down considerabley from last year’s festival where six of those bins (amounting to just under seven tons of waste) were trucked to the landfill. In Gonella’s eyes, this was one of the successes of this year’s Roots and Blues (another was attendance – this year’s festival drew 27,700 people over the three days festival, 500 more than last year).

The reduction of waste going to the landfill resulted from an effort made by festival organizers this year to go green. This included eliminating the sale of plastic water bottles, setting up compost/recycle/garbage stations throughout the festival grounds and requiring all the food vendors to use compostable materials for delivery of food and beverages, from compostable cups and lids to containers and cutlery.

Though the initiative came at a cost for Roots and Blues, Gonella was impressed with how well it went and the support it received from volunteers and the public.

Related: Roots and Blues plans to lighten the load

“If you think of the garbage we were sending just to the landfill, just in that purpose, yes, it was completely worth it,” said Gonella, who is keen to continue with the initiative at next year’s festival, albeit with some modification.

“I think the model will be followed yet again, but I think what’s going to be different is we might change some of the procedures and how we apply this process. I can’t really cite any examples yet because we haven’t really gotten in to what worked and what didn’t work, but we’re going to be looking at making it a little bit more efficient and reduce the cost with it as well.”

A huge fan of Roots and Blues’ green initiatve is Samara Sonmor, who oversaw the “eco-educators” who worked at the recycle/compost/waste stations to help the public make sure their refuse was sorted into the appropriate bins.

“I want to make sure this festival gets credit. Their initiative was amazing,” said Sonmor, who works with the Food Action Society of the North Okanagan. “I think they’re kind of not taking credit, and I want people to know how amazing they were and what we heard from the public.”

Sonmor also praised the vendors for being onboard with the compostables.

“Instead of using plastic, they used biodegradable packaging,” said Sonmor. “They used biodegradable cups, lids, straws, forks, spoons, the takeout boxes, everything. There were a couple of exceptions, but across the board, they co-operated, they made this happen, so I want the vendors to get some love too because these products are now, they’re innovative and they’re also expensive.”

Related: Festival doing away with plastic water bottles

Further praise was given to the team of eco-educators and other volunteers who helped divert waste into their proper streams, as well as to the public who caught on to it all and started to educate others. All of this, said Sonmor, helped contribute to the success of the initiative.

“Saturday, we had unmanned stations and we were going around and checking them and there was more right than wrong. Let’s put it that way,” laughed Sonmor.

Gonella is grateful for all of the eco-educators who helped make a difference at this year’s festival and to all the attendees who took the message to heart.

“I think the reflection of… how happy they were was by how clean the sites were each morning,” said Gonella. “That shows complete engagement that was definitely there.”


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