How to work towards a zero waste event

Brittany Lee Waller

Sustainable practices are receiving more attention today than ever before. Bars are removing straws across the country, grocery chains are banning plastic bags and fashion brands are committing to 100% reusable plastics by 2024. As humans, we are becoming increasingly aware of the effect our personal consumption has on our local and global ecosystems, now and in the future.

With this in mind, at TEDxSydney 2018 we wanted to live, breathe and act on the saying to ‘leave this earth better than we found it’. So, when we embarked on our HumanKind theme back in 2017, the team was determined to get as close to a zero-waste event as possible.

Ensuring as little as possible event material ends up in landfill can take a great deal of forethought. This includes detailed event planning to reduce solid waste from the event, reusing available materials, setting up zero-waste stations for recyclable and compostable materials such as paper cups, food scraps and plastic water bottles.

This year, thanks to our partner Globelet, we saved sending 14000 coffee cups going to landfill and 3334 500ml bottled waters.

This year lanyards for staff, crew, suppliers and back of house were all designed to be reused for next years event, further reducing our future eco footprint. Thanks to some clearly set out waste and recycle stations, over 11,000 litres of co-mingled recyclables were disposed of correctly,  as were 3000 litres of organics and over 2000 kgs of paper and cardboard, across the entire event from set up to packdown, 3 days in total.

When it comes to filling our bellies, TEDxSydney food editor, Sharnee Rawson steered us in the right direction – feeding 5000 mouths with nutritious, wholesome and earth friendly foods.

‘To add to the discussion around red meat and its environmental impacts, we looked to explore alternate sources. Instead of a typical red meat lunch, we offered a free-range chicken salad beefed up with quinoa. Skye Blackburn from the Edible Insect Store also came along and chatted to thousands of people during the day, slowly coaxing them into trying her cricket hummus, gourmet iced green ant matcha tea and chocolate crackles with meal worm.’

It goes without saying that the entire event went without straws, plastic bags and plastic cups and cutlery. At the end of the event boxes of fruit were sent to OzHarvest while other remaining food went to compost.

For the after party, socially responsible wine company, Riot Wines, supplied a variety of their drops, which all come on tap in stainless steel reusable kegs, significantly reducing compounding glass bottle waste.

While working towards zero waste on event day is a huge priority for us here at TEDxSydney, perhaps more importantly, we hope our events can act as a catalyst for change when it comes to human habit.

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