Green fests are best 

But what happens to that cup after you’re done drinking from it or that paper plate you just finished eating off of? Two Oklahoma City festivals and their green committees are making sure that it all ends up in the right place.

These committees are the Festival of the Arts Go Green Committee and the Paseo Arts Festival Green Committee. Both are looking for ways to implement tactics to reduce their event’s carbon footprint as much as possible.

Cheryl Vaught, committee chair of the Festival of the Arts Go Green Committee, began looking for ways to improve upon the sustainability of the festival three years ago.

“I realized that the festival wasn’t doing much in the area of conservation or recycling and felt that it needed to change,” she said. “We assembled the Go Green Committee, and a five-year plan was made that mapped out all of the goals we wanted to accomplish. One of those goals is that we want the festival to have net zero carbon footprint by the fifth year.”

We want to get to where every single product we use is reusable, compostable or able to be recycled.

—Cheryl Vaught

The Go Green Committee is now three years into that plan and has made tremendous strides in turning the festival into an environmentally sustainable event. This year, the Festival of the Arts will have approximately 100 trash cans, all accompanied by recycling bins. Food that is leftover from each of the vendors will be donated to homeless shelters so as to eliminate waste, and event organizers will even make sure that vehicles transporting supplies to the event don’t sit idle.

“We are also very big on using local products to decrease the amount of fuel used to transport items while also being responsible in promoting local businesses and artists,” Vaught said. “We want to get to the point where every single product we use at the festival is either reusable, compostable or able to be recycled.”

Also implementing a five-year plan is James Varnum, chair of the Paseo Arts Festival Green Committee. Although the Paseo Arts Festival has partnered with the Sierra Club for the last five years to help with recycling and disposing of trash properly, this is the first time that the festival has had a committee for the specific purpose of going green.

Many of the same tactics — such as pairing a recycling bin with every trash can and the use of local products — are also being used by the Paseo Arts Festival Green Committee. Varnum says that he wants all of the festival’s efforts to be highly visible to the public so that it might act as a teaching tool.

“I don’t think there’s one person in the world that would say that things like recycling and composting aren’t a good idea,” he said. “It’s just figuring out how to do it on their own is what a lot of people struggle with.”

To educate those who may need a little guidance, Varnum and friend Amy Young are renovating SixTwelve, a historic building located in the Paseo Arts District that will be dedicated to creativity and sustainability, according to Varnum.

“We want SixTwelve to have information on every action that people can take to help our environment,” he said.

But one of the biggest goals of both of the green committees is to have a large composting facility in Oklahoma City. This way, trash from the festivals won’t end up in another landfill.

“We’ve got a few more things we need to accomplish, but we’re making significant progress,” Vaught said.

“I think the work we have done and continue to do has planted a seed in the community that will continue to grow and encourage people to be more aware of the environment.”

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