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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Making summer fun easier on the environment

Seek alternatives to using disposables for your outdoor fun.

Summertime means backyard barbecues and large outdoor events like the County Fair and the Charlestown Seafood Festival—and using disposable food-service items like Styrofoam plates and plastic cups. Ever stop to think what happens to all that trash when the fun's over?

Unless you use recyclable or compostable items—and actually recycle or compost them!—they end up in the landfill in Johnston. Which at current rates of trash generation will be full in 22 years.

The good news is there are ways to make outdoor fun easier on the environment. Instead of using Styrofoam, choose plasticware or melamine that can be washed and reused. Or use paper plates and compost them. Wash and reuse plastic utensils rather than tossing them, or purchase reusable bamboo utensils. For beverages, use pitchers or thermoses rather than single-serving bottles and serve in paper cups. Of course, using recyclable items does no good if you don't actually recycle them. Provide separate disposal bins and make sure your guests know you're recycling. If you compost (which you should!), also provide a separate bin for food scraps.

Try to go easy on our water supply as well. Use melted ice to water the lawn or plants rather than just sending it down the drain.

Image by veganfeminazi
But what can you do when you're at a public event and are not in control of the types of serviceware used? Well, if you're attending the Newport jazz or folk festivals, the organizers have put a lot of effort into "greening" things. Shuttle buses and generators are powered by locally produced biodiesel; bins for recyclables and food waste are made available; biodegradable cups are used; vendors are strongly encouraged to use compostable plates, containers, cups and utensils; and the port-o-johns are chemical-free.

And what about the seafood festival, you may be wondering. I've been told that the used vegetable oil is recycled to make biodiesel—which they don't even really get props for doing anymore now that the governor just signed a law making it mandatory—but that's about it. I've asked the Charlestown Chamber of Commerce why they don't at the very least arrange for the food scraps to go to Earth Care Farm for composting seeing as how they're right here in town but haven't gotten an answer. If you'd like to see a greener seafood festival, contact the chamber.

Author: Linda Felaco