Zero Waste Heroes help local events go green

AWARE’s new social venture officially launches

Whistler events are getting a little more environmentally friendly.

Last week, the Association of Whistler Area Residents for the Environment (AWARE) announced the launch of Zero Waste Heroes, a new social enterprise aimed to help local events and their attendees minimize waste.

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“The idea came from when we were having zero waste stations at the farmers’ market,” said AWARE’s executive director Claire Ruddy. “We were constantly being approached by multiple event organizers asking for help and advice about how to reduce their waste. This has been a continuing conversation.”

The enterprise follows a three-stage model, the first of which is pre-event planning support. During this stage, AWARE works with event organizers to identify what that event’s particular needs are. While the best way to reduce waste is not to produce any at all, this isn’t always realistic, and AWARE says thoughtful planning can help ensure that only recyclable, recoverable or compostable waste is generated.

Secondly, AWARE’s team of Zero Waste Heroes will be present during events, hosting waste segregation stations. While these stations will serve as a waste collection point, they’ll also provide an opportunity for AWARE staff to answer questions and help educate event attendees about waste reduction.

Finally, AWARE will monitor each event in order to provide detailed analysis and recommendations for future events in a post-event diversion follow-up.

“There’s really two audiences for this, organizers and attendees,” explained Ruddy.

AWARE informally trialled the program with a few events last year, such as the North Face Whistler Half-Marathon and the Squamish Valley Music Festival, and was able to identify what equipment they needed to make Zero Waste Heroes suitable for the wide range of events Whistler will host this year.

Funding received from the Community Foundation of Whistler’s (CFOW) Environmental Legacy Fund and the Resort Municipality of Whistler’s (RMOW) Community Enrichment Program recently made it possible for AWARE to purchase that necessary equipment.

“What that (funding) allowed us to do was to buy four tents, which are bright green, so they’re really visible, and four really tall flags … so people can find us from far away,” said Ruddy. “We’ll also have educational banners at each station, as well as the bins themselves for people to segregate waste into, and education materials.”

AWARE has also hired and trained four lead hands to provide on-the-ground knowledge during events. They’ll work with volunteers to help support the initiative and answer attendee’s questions. “It’s really important that we have that knowledge, because education is so important to the program,” explained Ruddy.

With the necessary equipment and personnel in place, AWARE is now ready to roll out the initiative at events throughout the corridor.  

Costs for the fee-for-service initiative will vary by event. AWARE has developed a cost matrix that they’ll use to plug in the specific needs of each event in order to give organizers an accurate quote.

“We did a review of other private companies that are offering similar services and where we come in at cost, we’re able to really add value in comparison to those companies,” she said, adding, “Because we’re so local, we’re generally able to come in much cheaper.”

Ruddy also points out that by supporting the initiative, participating events will be contributing to Whistler’s environmental charity. “We have a goal as a community to work towards zero waste. Event organizers are trying to manage so many balls at once, so the more we can help them the better, and this speaks to a number of environmental community plans we have right now,” said Ruddy. “There are multiple benefits.”

For more information visit awarewhistler.org. 

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