To volunteer or learn more about the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council’s Zero Waste Initiative, call Liz Wahl at 970-871-5163, e-mail email@example.com or visit www.yvsc.org and click on “programs/projects,” then “zero waste initiative.”
■ July 23 — Free Summer Concert, featuring the Rhythm Devils with Mickey Hart, Bill Kreutzmann, Keller Williams, Sikiru Adepoju, Davy Knowles and Andy Hess
■ July 23 and 24 — Relay For Life
■ July 30 — Free Summer Concert, featuring The Easy Star Allstars
■ Aug. 13 — Free Summer Concert, featuring JJ Grey & Mofro
■ Aug. 15 — SmartWool Bike-In Movie
■ Aug. 20 — Free Summer Concert, featuring The Emmitt-Nershi Band
■ Aug. 27 or Sept. 3 — Safe Routes to School Bike Rodeo
■ Oct. 1 — YVSC Fall Fundraiser
Source: Yampa Valley Sustainability Council
Steamboat Springs Last week at a busy Bike to Work Day breakfast, Liz Wahl diligently was manning compost duty.
“Toothpicks are trash,” she informed a helmet-toting cyclist carrying a handful of waste from the meal Wednesday morning on the Routt County Courthouse lawn in downtown Steamboat Springs.
The toothpicks in some food items couldn’t go in the compost bin, Wahl said, because of the decorative cellophane wrapping on one end. As the event continued, more and more toothpicks wound up in the trash, rather than the compost bin used for items that could decompose, create soil and stay out of the Milner Landfill. At one point, Wahl looked over and saw a man standing over the trash bin.
“I’m breaking toothpicks for you,” the man said. He then began digging into the trash to do just that — snap the toothpicks in half, throw the cellophane into the trash and toss the rest of the tiny wooden sticks into the compost bin.
That kind of no-holds-barred environmentalism is a big reason why the Zero Waste Initiative, a program of the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council, has more than tripled in size and scope during its first year.
That year included five zero waste events: Family Fun Fest, two free concerts at the base of Steamboat Ski Area, a bike-in movie and the U.S. Nordic Combined Olympic Trials in December. The Sustainability Council said in a news release that those events diverted an average of 70 percent of discarded waste from the landfill.
The program is fueled by a strong local stewardship ethic that’s evident in the more than 300 volunteers who planted trees Saturday as part of ReTree Colorado, last week’s strong participation in Bike to Work Week and more.
It’s also fueled by a lot of work in the trenches, standing over compost bins as members of what Wahl has called the “green police.”
Wahl is food and beverage director for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. She is vice-chairwoman of the Sustainability Council’s board of directors and chairwoman of its Zero Waste Committee. Earlier this month, the Colorado Association for Recycling named her its 2010 Recycler of the Year.
She said inquiries about zero waste events are coming in faster than she can handle.
“I can’t even keep track,” Wahl said Wednesday. “I have more people wanting it than I can get to right now.”
Wahl said she’s in “desperate need of volunteers” as the Zero Waste Initiative plans to take on the remaining four free summer concerts at Howelsen Hill and several other upcoming events.
“It was a natural next step for us to make the entire concert series zero waste,” said Audrey Williams, president of the Steamboat Springs Free Summer Concert Series’ board. “We’ve always encouraged attendees to use alternative transportation to get to the concerts, so it made sense to shrink our environmental footprint even more by stepping up our recycling, implementing composting and reducing waste in the first place.”
Wahl getting fee concert vendors on board with Zero Waste efforts included ideas like placing cookies in reusable food containers, not cellophane wrapping, and eliminating small packets of ketchup and mustard.
“It’s not a battle,” she said about the talks with vendors. “They’re all like, ‘Yeah, I want to do the right thing.’”
Wahl said those who want to volunteer with the Zero Waste Initiative can call her at 970-871-5163.
Wahl acknowledged that at this point, the term “zero waste” is more of a goal than a literal reality. But Wahl said she was more than satisfied with the Zero Waste efforts and participation at last week’s Bike to Work Day breakfast.
“If you look at a big event like this … and we’re only throwing away toothpicks, to me, that’s pretty darn good,” she said.