Tomato Festival Waste Diversion Success

Did you know that according to the US EPA, about 164 million tons of municipal solid waste end up in landfills across the country each year?

Did you also know that food scraps and yard waste currently make up to about 20% to 30% of what we send off to the landfills? The thing about organic materials (food scraps and yard waste) is … they can be composted and turned into nutrient-rich material that is used to increase soil health in gardens and farms!

Tomato Festival Waste Diversion Success

Easy to read signage that shows patrons where to place their waste.

Landfill waste can be dramatically reduced by simple changes in how we shop for, use, and dispose of our goods. Reducing landfill waste by recycling and composting helps to create healthier land, air, water and quality of life. Organic matter that sits in landfills decomposes slowly, releasing methane — a greenhouse gas that can lead to many environmental issues. You can reduce your overall impact on the environment by making every day decisions that avoid the landfill. These decisions include: purchasing products with minimal packaging, purchasing items made with recycled materials, using reusable containers, recycling material goods and composting organic materials.

Tomato Festival Waste Diversion Success

A volunteer manning an EcoWaste Station, ready to guide patrons on where to place their waste.

This year, we aimed to have a zero-waste event in order to reduce the impact on our local landfills from our largest event in Sonoma County: The Annual Kendall-Jackson Heirloom Tomato Festival. How did we do? We achieved a 97% waste diversion rate, which means that only 3% of everything used at this year’s Tomato Festival went into the landfill! This was an astounding accomplishment for us and exceeded our expectations, especially considering the number of event-goers the festival attracts each year and the fact that this was the first year we’ve set a waste diversion goal. It has given us great motivation to divert even more next year!

How did we do it?

We made changes in the little things that make the biggest collective impact. In a collaborative effort with our very talented culinary crew and hospitality teams, as well as some great guidance and execution from the waste diversion gurus at Green Mary Zero Waste Events, we:

  • purchased compostable plates and cutlery and recyclable soup cups
  • provided EcoWaste Stations throughout the entire event that separated recyclables (in the blue bins), compostables (in the green bins), and landfill waste (in the smaller black bins, it’s all about the optics!)
  • increased volunteerism and spent more time training them to guide patrons on where to put their waste
  • developed clear and easy to read signage for additional guidance

Reducing the impacts of large events like the Annual Kendall-Jackson Heirloom Tomato Festival is a huge and achievable win. However, the impact of small changes in what you do daily can also be tremendous for the long term. What can you do at work and at home to reduce your impact?

-Sabrina Sihakom, Sustainability Coordinator