Conservation Almanac Special Edition

        Island groups collaborate to help Green the Fair

Reduce . . . Reuse . . . Refill!

This year there was an exciting addition to the annual Ag Fair: a brand new water bottle refill station, located in the front room of the hall near the restrooms. The unit, which dispenses chilled, filtered water (at no cost!) was so popular that it even had its own line at times. Perhaps that is no surprise, given the heat and humidity throughout the fair, but we were still impressed by the numbers. (We were also impressed by the resourcefulness of those who used their leftover lemonade and soda cups in lieu of a water bottle.) The built-in counter, which tracks the number of disposable bottle equivalents, began the fair at 247, shot up to 1941 by late Friday night, and ended at 2821 (and counting) the day after the fair.

The Ag Hall refill station is one of several that have been installed this summer as part of the next phase of the VCS Take Back the Tap initiative. Beginning with the installation of refill stations in all of the Island schools, we are now working to bring them to other high-traffic public places. To date, new units have been placed at the Ice Arena, Boys & Girls Club, and West Tisbury Town Hall, with more locations soon to come, including the Edgartown VTA station and Town Hall, and the Oak Bluffs Library.

Thank you to our anonymous donor who is funding the refill station project, and to every single fair-goer who helped keep thousands of single-use plastic bottles out of our waste stream!

One Hundred Sixty-Seven

One hundred sixty-seven. 167. That’s the annual per-capita number of disposable water bottles used in the United States. You're probably shaking your head, "well, not me" and that's probably true. In fact, it's highly likely that most people consume many fewer
or many more than this number. Regardless, 50 billion bottles for 325 million people, give or take a few 'illions one way or the other . . . it's still an awful lot, and as a society we need to do better.

We were very proud to share our table at this year’s Ag Fair with the kids at Sense of Wonder Creations day camp. Using 167 discarded water bottles, along with a heavy fishing net found on the beach nearby, they created the sculpture pictured above. (Make sure to click the image for a better look.) It’s a beautiful, yet visceral expression of ocean pollution and the damage our waste inflicts on wildlife, fully deserving of the Honorable Mention ribbon it was awarded (and it also deserves much credit for helping the companion display from VCS win a First Place!)

All Hands on Deck for Greening the Fair

2018 marked the beginning of a new focus on waste management at the fair. Led by Sophie Abrams Mazza and Island Grown Initiative, with help from VCS, Sail MV, and the Agricultural Society, this collaborative effort to “Green the Fair” came in response to the challenges – and opportunities – presented by the scale of waste produced during the fair. Last year’s fair generated 25,000 pounds of trash in just four days, but much of it was food waste and recyclables that could have been diverted from the landfill. The old system of trash cans, recycling bins, and compost distributed throughout the fairgrounds left fair-goers unsure of what to put where (and where to put what), ultimately leading to everything being intermixed or contaminated – and therefore, trash.

Following a model used by Sail MV during their recent Vineyard Cup event, at this year’s fair there were four new waste stations: clearly marked green tents, staffed with workers to help keep everything straight. The stations were a great opportunity for education as well, as many were surprised to learn of the various plastic items that can’t be recycled, or just how clean things must be to be accepted by the recyclers.

Recycling and trash numbers are still to come, by we can already say definitively that the new system has been a major improvement in regard to food waste. In addition to helping people separate their food from plates, wrappers, etc., the waste stations took in bins of scraps directly from the vendors. This surely is a large reason why the amount of food collected for composting more than doubled from 2017 to 2018, from 3,000 pounds to about 6,500. That is over three tons of food waste that, instead of being trucked off-Island to a landfill and decomposing into greenhouse gasses, will now be used to make local compost!

The public response to the efforts to “Green the Fair” was overwhelming positive, with most fair-goers happy to spend a few minutes to learn the new system. Credit for the success of the new program is due to every individual and organization who participated, but especially to the many hard-working kids, adult volunteers, and the incredible staff of IGI. Thank you!

Copyright © 2018 Vineyard Conservation Society, All rights reserved.

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