In the news: coming March 2015, commercial compost programs in Portland will no longer accept disposable dishware labeled as “compostable”, such as “corn plastic” and the like. From Sustainable Business Oregon:
“Food-selling organizations like the Portland Trail Blazers have their work cut for them following a major change to Portland’s commercial compost program that drops the ability to compost containers and other non-food items.”
So-labeled “compostable” plastic dishware is also not permitted in Portland’s residential program, so in our area, it simply doesn’t make sense to purchase or use those types of foodware for any reason, even an event or wedding. It’s just going to go in the landfill.
Link: Reminders on what is allowed in residential Portland compost
Link: Reminders on what is allowed in commercial Portland compost
Long read: More about the pros and cons of corn-based plastic, or PLA (Smithsonian)
It is a bit of a disappointment to see this feature dropped from Portland’s commercial compost program. Many special event caterers, food trucks at parties, and wedding caterers will be affected as well. However, with all challenges come an opportunity — all of us will be challenged and encouraged to decrease waste and move away from any kind of disposables, compostable or not.
Continuing our discussion of event design (and please, make it a discussion by commenting)…
More about our Event Design Series here at Day 1, and where the questions came from
|A low-landfill sustainable event coordinated by Portland event planning company EJP Events. This 2,000-attendee company picnic was planned so that all dishware was compostable and only recyclable drink containers were used. The small trash bag at the front left shows the entirety of landfill trash generated by the event. Photo: EJP Events
Day 3: Sustainability: Special events can be wasteful. What steps can planners take to make sure they are producing a sustainable event? And how can you use alternative materials in your design work?
I think you have to look at the event’s purpose and make sure you can align it with sustainability before you proceed. If you want to be known for sustainable events, yet promote events like Black Friday, you’re getting off on the wrong foot.
That out of the way, then you should take the event apart critique each element for the following: 1. Is this element creating waste — and can this waste be diverted or recycled? 2. Is this element using resources in an ethical way? (Ethical labor, ethical apportionment of food, water, energy)
Also, looking at the event as a whole: 3. What is the environmental legacy of the event? 4. What is the moral and ethical legacy of the event?
Alternative materials are everywhere. The last ISES Art of the Party event showed some great examples. I saw everything from Home Depot yard cloth used as table covering (which could be used in gardens after the event) to upcycled books (that would have been recycled anyway) being used as design materials. Catering is part of event design. Much has been covered regarding local and sustainable food sources. Lighting is part of event design. We have wonderful, low wattage light treatments available to us now. Look at every aspect you possibly can.
Event materials that are sustainable 1) do not draw heavily on, or entirely avoid, virgin resources such as cut trees or mined metals; 2) divert waste from landfills; 3) or can be reused, thus staying out of landfills; and 4) do not promote toxic chemical buildup through their use (e.g. batteries going in the trash)
You have a responsibility as a planner and a designer to explore alternative, sustainable sources first when creating your designs.