All Posts Tagged With: "composting"

Green Events 2: You Are What You Eat

photo by: Balance Weddings

Second in a four-part series from our colleague and friend Lori Hill, owner of lori hill event productions. Read the first article here.

Today’s topic is:¬†What you eat and what you eat the food ON


Michael Pollan hit the nail on the head when he wrote in In Defense of Food: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” What he means is eat REAL food — not the processed stuff that has names you can’t pronounce. Don’t eat too much and try to have a vegetarian diet. It takes 25 gallons of water to produce one pound of wheat, while it takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat. So when planning your menu for your special event, be sure to provide some vegetarian options (or go all vegetarian!). Also, ask your caterer where they source their food from. You want it to be local and/or organic. If you have to choose, always pick local over organic since it travels a shorter distance from farm to table. Organic options are ideal because they don’t include all those evil “ides” – pesticides, insecticides and herbicides — that have been proven toxic and cancer-causing. Local is fresher and therefore tastes better and it supports your local economy! We all need to do that these days!


Every single day, 40 MILLION plastic bottles go into landfills. (Julie’s note: There is also a place in the Pacific Ocean where the world’s plastic tends to congregate, because of the ocean currents – really. It’s called the “Pacific Trash Vortex,” and it’s already twice the size of Texas.) That is why you need to say NO to bottled water and serve it in pitchers or large dispensers because even if you provide recycle bins, not everybody will recycle their bottle.

When serving coffee, go for fair trade/shade grown/organic coffee and fair trade/organic hot tea. Alcoholic beverages can be eco, too! Choose organic vodka, wine or beer OR support your local winery or brewery. If you can do it, say no to sodas. The artificial sweeteners in them are truly toxic and have no redeeming qualities. Opt for an organic beverage instead. I’m a fan of Honest Tea. You can drink it cold or at room temperature and it comes in lots of flavors. If this former diet Coke addict can kick the habit, so can you.

China and Disposables

I think fondly of the time when the world was a more genteel place and not the disposable economy it is today. I often think of a scene from Out of Africa with Meryl Streep and Robert Redford are camping in the African wilderness and they are eating off china! CHINA in the WILDERNESS!!! I opt for the “permanent stuff” whenever I can, but if I’m going to be outside with hundreds or thousands of guests, I’m usually forced to use disposables. Luckily, we now have affordable compostable options instead of that evil plastic that takes decades and decades to biodegrade. For small events, you can purchase these yourself at earth friendly grocery stores. Talk to your caterer about using compostable disposables if you are planning a large event.

(Note: this is only part of the job. You have to make sure a good waste station is set up, conveniently-located, for the guests to dispose of things properly. We’ll get to that in the final installment.)

Next topic: Greening your event decor.

5 Tips for Sexy Recycling

photo by: Julie
Many businesses embark on greening programs by taking a good, hard look at the stream of materials both into and out of their business. Often, this first shows up as recycling. We all know about recycling, and how we “should” be doing better. So, why aren’t we?

Being trained in the design arts, I firmly believe that if it’s not convenient or beautiful enough, people won’t bother. Yes, beauty has a powerful, usually subliminal effect on us. If something is repugnant and hard to do – why waste your time on it?

Luckily, there are some excellent examples of doing recycling right. For instance, check out the plastic recycling bin in a Swiss McDonald’s pictured on the wonderful website, “Eco Pic of the Day.”

Wish we had that kind of recycling beauty on this side of the pond? Good news! Last August, my family and I went to San Francisco, which in the resource (not “waste”) management world feels like a trip to the future.

The image at the top was taken in the California Academy of Sciences, itself an over-the-toply green building. Definitely worth a visit and do NOT miss the green roof. They had triple-bins all through the building, but since this was in the main pathway, the designers took pains to make it something that fits and is easy to use. It has beautifully weighted lids that pivot, always returning to the list of what materials to put in. This picture also has one key bit of information: “90% of your waste can be composted!”
photo by: Julie

Since San Francisco has municipal composting (how cool is that??), I embarrassed my family by taking photographs of trash bins. Ahhh, but not just ANY trash bins – these are happily color-coded with photos, so you know immediately what to put in each. Since color is deeply symbolic, it is no accident that the green is for compost, the blue is for recycling, and the black is for “landfill.” I’ve even seen places where the black can is much smaller than the others, to discourage use.

photo by: Julie

Finally, since pictures are far more eloquent than words, stations like this go a long way to assuring success. Again, pay attention to both the size and the colors of each poster. Size, color and number of choices work on both an explicit and a subliminal level. Advertisers have known and exploited this for years! We’ve starting doing something very similar at my son’s school events, and it works like a charm.

photo by: Julie

If you’re having challenges implementing a recycling program or getting participation, here are some tips:

1. Take a look at the containers you are using. Is it abundantly clear what materials go into each container?

2. Are the containers placed for convenience? Be honest – people are just not going to walk the entire length of your building just to recycle a single Coke can. If you can err on the side of more containers, do it.

3. Ask for suggestions from your co-workers. You’d be surprised how many people actually DO care about this, even if their at-work behavior is less than exemplary. By asking for their input, you can more effectively deputize them to be part of the solution.

4. Aim high! Why not consider a composting program? Maybe your apartment-dwelling, tree-hugging young employees will be thrilled to bring their kitchen scraps from home. And then blog about what a cool employer you are. There are a lot of composting services cropping up all over. It may not be as crazy as it sounds.

5. Please do not underestimate the value of good design! Color, size, material, and graphics play a deeply significant role in effective communication. Lavishing attention on your recycling bins communicates that it’s a high priority in your workplace. You really can make recycling fun and sexy – if you embrace the beauty, ease and grace of good design.

Harness the power of good design to make your recycling program sexy! Did you these tips useful? Let us know and share this with your friends!

The Rockfish

photo courtesy of: The Rockfish

The Rockfish is a no waste fine dining experience located in Annapolis. The restaurant takes all of it organic waste to a compost facility, runs a recycling program called "Rockfish Recycles" which began in the early spring 2007, purchases wind power carbon credits and has already off-set millions of pounds in greenhouse gases. "Our program provides neighboring businesses that were not recycling at all with recycle containers to keep on site. Every Friday, the 12 businesses who now work with us drop off their waste in our parking lot. We sort it, pack it and deliver it to the county’s recycling center free of charge. Current estimates show that we are converting 4 tons of trash bound for landfills to recycle every month. That is almost 50 tons each year and the program keeps growing."