Events have been the theme of the late summer and fall for us here at Collective Resource Compost. In August, we helped to manage the waste streams for the Village of Skokie at their annual Backlot Bash. In September, we helped out at Emerge, the event formerly known as Winnetka Music Fest and at the Taste of Evanston, a lovely fundraiser put on by Evanston Lighthouse Rotary Club.

Each of these events had food vendors and I made this joke that we should create an award for the greenest food vendor, like the awards they have at art fairs. We didn’t do that in real life, but there’s no reason we couldn’t do that right here, right now.

Best of Show for Skokie’s Backlot Bash goes to Tamales Express! And here’s why: so much of what they normally serve in is compostable. They serve mango and elote on wooden skewers. They serve tamales in corn husks and paper boats. They have a brick and mortar operation at 4747 N. Damen, Chicago but can also be found at farmers’ markets around the city and suburbs.

Best of Show for Winnetka’s Emerge goes to Soul & Smoke! Okay, there might be a little bit of nepotism going on here because Soul & Smoke is located in our hometown of Evanston and they compost through us in their kitchen. But look how cute their logo looks on a compostable paper clamshell! If these awards were serious, we would have gone around and talked to all of the food vendors about the operations in their kitchens to see if any of the others also composted in their kitchens.

Best of Show for Taste of Evanston goes to Event Hosts Evanston Lighthouse Rotary Club! Whenever we will be present diverting food scraps from an event, varying degrees of effort ranging from suggesting to demanding are put into seeing that the food vendors serve in compostable serveware. Evanston Lighthouse Rotary Club solved this problem by purchasing compostable products to ensure that the majority of the vendors used all compostable products! It really makes our work so much more gratifying when we are able to divert more of the event’s waste from a landfill. Extra points for having Evanston’s Mobile Water Station onsite to keep everyone hydrated without using a ton of single-use plastic water bottles. Did you know that anyone in Evanston can rent this station that comes filled with 200 gallons of potable water from the Evanston Water Treatment Plant?

Zero waste events are near and dear to my heart because my desire to have one at my daughter’s school is what led me to Erlene Howard and her newborn company Collective Resource in 2010.

Our ideas about how they can be managed and what they look like is always evolving. I used to be so into finding the coolest compostable products. I still really love palm leaf plates. For the centerpieces for my daughter Etta’s Bat Mitzvah, back in 2013, I used one of the bigger square plates and placed four apples and pears in different color combinations on them for a minimalist, modern, zero waste and dare I say kick-ass solution. Now, I think reusables are the way to go. (Technically, we did reuse those palm leaf plates since they didn’t get dirty and we ate all of the apples and pears.) It all gets trickier the bigger the event is, but considering reusables is an important part of the planning. Almost any size event could use reusable, washable metal cutlery.

I like to Google “zero waste” every once in a while and see if anything new comes up. I discovered a virtual Zero Waste Series at the library in Frankfort, Illinois. On October 13th, they’ll be doing a program on food waste and composting. You can learn more and sign up here

Tomorrow, I’m going to be attending a program in the series focused on this ecological footprint calculator. I’ve never used this particular one but it asks you a series of questions to help you determine how many Earths would be needed to support your current lifestyle. I want to believe that it’s just one for me but going through the questions quickly has me at three. That’s two too many!

A lot can be learned by asking the questions: Can I do this differently? Can I do this better?

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Zero Waste Consultant | Collective Resource, Inc.

Mary Beth strongly believes that, “It’s always better to be doing something rather than nothing.” If you’re thinking of composting at home, she can help you work out what your particular “something” can be.

She’s confident a solution can be tailored to fit anyone’s needs and ambitions. “Anyone who eats can be a CRI customer, whether you are an individual or a large organization. I want you to understand the advantages of composting, and I can show you how CRI can make it easy.” Mary Beth has successfully designed waste diversion strategies for individuals, schools, houses of worship and other communities. She’s received the governor’s Environmental Hero award for her work at her daughter’s school. Whether you’re starting with a backyard bin, a kitchen bucket, a worm farm, or large-scale commercial collection, Mary Beth can be your good-natured guide.