Karren Fultz, sustainability director for the Utah Pride Festival, has a goal of making the Festival a zero waste event by 2020.
Fultz volunteered to start a festival green team in 2015, and under her direction the amount of waste diverted from the landfill has gone from a baseline of 25% to an impressive 67%.
In 2018 there were 250 vendors and more than 50,000 attendees so that’s a lot of garbage. “We’re talking about beer cups, lots and lots of beer cups,” says Fultz, but also plastic water bottles, food waste, cardboard, and even clothing and parade props that get left behind.
Fultz analyzes the waste stream by weighing trash and then spreading it out to photograph it. She knows exactly what will make the most impact. The zero waste strategy includes education for vendors, volunteers and staff as well as outreach to guests.
The first target for waste reduction was disposable water bottles. Fultz and Events Director Liz Pitts designed a water bottle refiling station to provide free, filtered cold water.
Then the Pride Festival stopped accepting donations of bottled water and partnered with the Living Traditions Festival and Momentum Recycling to put reusable bottles in swag bags. These efforts reduced plastic waste by about two tons.
Other changes targeted food vendors in order to replace Styrofoam clamshells with ecofriendly products and to collect cooking oil for biofuel. Vendors can also leave donation boxes with useable items that they don’t want to pack out.
For the 2018 festival, Fultz organized a green team of about 100 volunteers. As far as encouraging festival-goers to recycle, Fultz says, “We’ve gotten creative.” Painted boards on top of the recycling bins encouraging people to throw things in the hole, like a Utah-themed one that says, “This is the place… to recycle.”
Fultz currently has an intern from Utah Valley University researching zero waste events in order to make future plans to recycle cardboard and glass. Her goal for next year is to have composting bins since half of what goes to the landfill is food waste. She’s also trying to think of a creative way to make sure beer cups go in the recycle bin. “We want to create an art exhibit, like Beer Cup Castle,” she says.
Last year Fultz attended a national conference for pride festival organizers and was disappointed that there was no conversation about sustainability. At the next conference she is planning to start that conversation herself.