Trash Talk: Ibex Tent Sale and the Zero Waste Initiative

Fugee Speaks. We respect the sheep (of course), the craft (without a doubt), the customer (duh!), and our shared natural and living environment.  “Fugee Speaks” is a regular column with notes on what Ibex does behind the scenes to keep Vermont and Mother Nature happy.

With our annual Tent Sale, October is a big month for Ibex. More importantly, it’s a big month for our New England-based customers, many of whom travel up to 300-miles to score an amazing Tent Sale deal. This year, we welcomed thousands of people to the hamlet of Quechee, Vermont. Amidst the typical good times and measures of success for the sale, we also must acknowledge the downside: the trash. This event generates a lot of it. So for 2012, we set a new goal to move toward zero waste. With no further ado, here is the abbreviated story of our rubbish, at a little event we like to call simply “the Tent.”

THE MISSION: ZERO-WASTE.  Those are not two words that you often see next to each other, and many will admit it is a lofty goal. Here at Ibex we never shy away from raising the bar on ourselves. The challenge was to drastically reduce, reuse or otherwise capture and repurpose our waste over the course of a few hectic days.

Zero-waste events, often referred to as ZeeWee, are catching on throughout the world. The 2012 Summer Olympics in London established a zero-waste protocol, and popular music festivals Bonnaroo and Telluride Bluegrass are other shining examples of big events to go zero waste.  With proper planning, educated staff and volunteers, a dedication to waste reduction and diversion, ZeeWees can be hugely successful models for communities, businesses, and event planners to follow.

Before the storm.JPG

THE CHALLENGE: Cardboard, Poly Bags and Sporks. Over 20,000 individual Ibex items were sold over the course of the 4-day sale. Not surprisingly these items arrived at the sale in a protective poly bag, a cardboard box, or both.  The staggering amount of cardboard found onsite was testament to the popularity of this lightweight, non-toxic, biodegradable material, as well as the industrialized world’s dependency on it for shipping and packaging.  Plastic poly bags and shrinkwrap were a not-so-close second, in terms of quantity, in our waste stream but just as important to deal with.

While there were no food vendors for shoppers this year, Ibex fed and quenched all employees and volunteers for the entirety – resulting in full bellies and big smiles. The inevitable food waste had to be handled. Easy-as-pie. Dedicated 90-gallon recycling totes were re- imagined as enormous compost pails, and employees obliged by depositing left over and unwanted food waste along with Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) certified cups, plates, and bowls into the bins.  Thanks to the wonder of bagasse, mealtime and compost time were made much easier.  (Bagasse is the fibrous wonder material that remains after extracting juice from sugarcane or agave plants. It is used in the production of biodegradable plates, cups, and bowls that were provided.)

After the storm.JPG

THE RESULTS: We were determined to see these valuable resources live on through recovery and repurposing. By adding value to the waste, we help ourselves and others more easily see the benefits to recycling in our everyday lives. By making minimal changes to the business-as-usual approach, the 2012 edition of the Ibex Tent Sale yielded huge results in terms of waste reduction and recovery.

An entire ton (literally 2000 pounds) of waste was kept out of the landfill thanks to the efforts of many and the visions of others before us.

  • 1300 pounds of cardboard were captured and transformed by our friends at Poly Recovery.
  • 400 pounds of plastic poly bags were captured and transformed by our friends at Poly Recovery.
  • 300 pounds of compost were diverted and added to an employee’s active compost pile.
  • 2 yards (unknown weight) of recyclables were hauled away at day’s end.

 

Yucky compost.JPG

THE NEW LIVES OF USED WASTE: All boxes from the Ibex tent sale eventually will be repurposed into new game boards at Milton Bradley in East Longmeadow, MA. All poly bags were 100% recycled into new poly bags by a local vendor.  We found a local hauler who sorts and recycles plastics #1-#7, as well as aluminum and glass. These fine folks handled everything that could not be composted and could not be called a cardboard box or a poly bag.

To put it all in perspective, 20-yards of dumpster space were filled in 2011. This year our total “trash” filled less than 2 (!!) yards. Technically we suppose we can’t call it a zero waste event, but technically…we’re still stoked. We’re moving in the right direction and “near” zero-waste is pretty damn good.

Some facts to consider for your next event

Cardboard Facts:

  • Cardboard is a fully recyclable and biodegradable material.
  • Cardboard is used to ship 90 percent of all products in the U.S.
  • Recycled cardboard only takes 75 percent of the energy needed to make new cardboard.
  • Recycling or reusing cardboard lessens the emission of sulfur dioxide that is produced when making pulp from wood trees.
  • Recycling 1 ton of cardboard saves 9 cubic yards of landfill space and 46 gallons of oil.
  • Handle with care, because oil and water can easily contaminate the material, rendering it virtually non-recyclable.
  • The recovery rate of corrugated cardboard has risen considerably over the past decade to a record high 91 percent in 2011.

Poly Bag Facts:

  • Plastic bag production uses less than 4% of the water needed to make paper bags.
  • Plastic bags require 70 percent less energy to produce than paper bags.
  • Plastics bags can take hundreds of years to decompose in a landfill.
  • Inert if buried deep in a landfill.
  • Plastic bags and stretch film are generally #2 and #4 plastic.
  • Most recyclable plastic bags are used in the production of composite lumber products.
  • Los Angeles became the largest city in the U.S. to enact a ban on single use plastic bags earlier this year, joining 47 other cities in California alone.

Compost Facts:

  • Adding organic matter to the landfill creates methane, a harmful  greenhouse gas, which is released as anaerobic bacteria digest the matter.
  • By composting organic matter, oxygen-loving bacteria and fungi aerobically transform organic waste in to food for soil, keeping it out of the landfill and increasing soil fertility.
  • It is a misconception that compost piles need to be hot.  Actually, compost piles can thrive at a temperature at or above 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • The great state of Vermont has about 600,000 residents and 3 commercial compost facilities producing world-class compost to support local agriculture.