Five-day Skeleton Park Arts Festival produces one bag of garbage

July 1, 2022
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The artistic director of the festival, Greg Tilson, said the festival has been aiming to be zero-waste for more than a decade. He hopes their success will inspire other events to try the same with the help of the City of Kingston and their mobile waste diversion station.

“For us, it has been a number of years of learning, trial and error,” Tilson explained. “We’ve had support from the City of Kingston, we’ve had support with Sustainable Kingston, so it’s a team effort.

“When it comes down to it, it really is about informed volunteers and practice systems that are tried and true. For the events that are looking to reduce their waste, it really has got to be more than just putting out the receptacles.”

Tilson said events need to invest in eager, educated volunteers, and then treat them well.

“They’re total rock stars,” Tilson said of this year’s group. “They become a tight-knit group of friends. We set them up in a way so they have a great view of the stage, so I think they all have a really fun time. My words of wisdom for any other events is to invest in it — that you’ve done the research, make sure you’re getting the support from the city, and other groups who are invested in this like Sustainable Kingston and have a group of informed volunteers that work with your audience to make sure it’s done right.”

The festival reduces beverage waste by encouraging guests to bring their own water bottles and filling them at the Utilities Kingston water buggy. Any other waste was brought to the centre of the park to be sorted by a volunteer. They threw out what garbage was left, which turned out to be a few plates and utensils. Tilson explained the vendor thought the items were recyclable, but they were not within the City of Kingston.

Communicating and collaborating with vendors was also essential to making the festival as zero waste as possible. Tilson said if food could be served on a napkin instead of a plate, vendors were encouraged to do that.

“We have a food-vendor committee and it is key element (of the festival),” Tilson said. “There are requirements. If you’re going to sell food at our festival, you’ve got to follow the rules that we have set up, and the policies, so that whatever packaging you use, we make sure it’s either recyclable or compostable.”

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