I enjoy outdoor events just as much as the next person. But seeing images of what those spaces look like after the crowds have cleared can leave a bad taste in my mouth.
It’s well documented that the amount of trash generated at events is a huge issue. It took 200 workers two weeks to clean up all the trash left behind at the Daytona 500. Music festivals are being called “environmental disasters”. Even environmental events have been known to leave behind their share of trash.
But I don’t think that skipping events is the answer. There are steps we can all take to make sure that the aftermath of concerts, music festivals, sporting events, parades, protests, fairs, festivals, and all outdoor events is a trash-free space.
Bring Your Arsenal Of Reusables
Bringing a reusable water bottle that you can refill at an event saves trash, money, and time spent waiting in lines.
Even if liquids aren’t permitted into the event, an empty water bottle probably is. You can fill up once you’ve entered the event.
You can also bring cloth napkins, reusable utensils, snacks in reusable containers, tote bags, and any of your other most trusted reusable items.
Make Signs Out Of Recyclable Materials (And Take Them Home With You)
If you’re making a sign for a concert, sporting event, or protest try to make it out of only recyclable materials, like cardboard and craft paper.
Also make sure to take your sign with you when you leave and recycle it properly at home.
Leaving a sign on the street, ground, or in a pile of other discarded signs means that it will probably be loaded into a dumpster and sent to landfill, rather than being recycled.
Even leaving the sign in a public recycling bin might not be the best idea. Recycling bins at outdoor events are notorious for being filled with non-recyclable materials.
Commingled waster in recycling bins means that not everything may be recycled. Say someone throws food waste into a recycling bin — anything that was contaminated by the food waste then gets sent to landfill, rather than being recycled.
Don’t Leave Anything Behind
It shouldn’t have to be said, but somehow multiple tons of trash are still littered at events each year. Please don’t ever leave trash on the ground or leave personal items behind when you leave an event. Period.
One of the most commonly left behind items at music festivals is tents and other camping equipment.
When asked why they would leave something like that behind, most culprits said it’s because they can buy a new tent so cheaply that they don’t want to take the dirty, muddy one home to clean it.
Just remember, it’s not just about the money. Just because an item is inexpensive doesn’t mean it should be discarded in a field.
Take a survey of your space before you leave an event and make sure that you aren’t leaving anything behind.
Not only does someone have to pick up that garbage after you, trash left on the ground find its way into our waterways and into the tummies of wildlife animals.
Don’t Put Trash In an Overflowing Bin
Have you ever been to an event that DIDN’T have an overflowing trash can spilling it’s contents all over the ground while people continue to pile on more and more garbage? It’s pretty much a staple of any outdoor event.
I’m sure the people who participated in the People’s Climate March don’t consider themselves litterers. They are probably people just like me and you, who want to do what they can to protect the environment. But somehow the aftermath of the People’s Climate March still looked like this:
Sometimes trash is unintentionally littered by adding it to a jam packed public trashcan. Adding trash to an overflowing bin can cause waste to be scattered across the ground.
To by really diligent about keeping trashcans from overflowing, don’t throw anything away at an event. Think about it—the trash at the bottom of the bin is just as culpable as the trash at the top.
Instead, take your waste with you and toss it at home.
Use an Electronic Ticket
With the availability of electronic tickets and their common use today, there’s really no reason not to use them.
You can’t forget your electronic ticket at home (unless you forget your phone), it doesn’t produce any waste, and you don’t have to keep tabs on it during the event.
If everyone used electronic tickets instead of paper ones, just imagine the amount of waste that could prevented.
Do Your Research
Have you ever gone to event and been told at the entrance that something you brought with you isn’t allowed? I know I have. You’re left with two options – throw it out or don’t come in.
Most events have rules on which items are and are not allowed clearly posted on their website before an event. Do you research. Read up on what items are prohibited so you can make sure you aren’t throwing anything out at the entrance.
Help With The Cleanup
When it comes to crowds reducing their waste, just remember—if we all do a little it adds up to a lot.
Comment below if you have other ideas for reducing waste at outdoor events!