Warmer weather is a sign of lots of great summer things to come, including one of our favorites: outdoor festivals. Last year, we helped make a summer concert series in Connecticut a zero-waste success, and we’re at it again this year, this time in partnership with Grind2Energy®, a unit of Emerson.
Together, we kicked off our first event of the season at last week’s Kentucky Derby Festival in downtown Louisville, an event that draws nearly 1.5 million people each year. In the Chow Wagon area, the festival’s food court, we set up our very own “chow wagon”—Grind2Energy’s mobile food grinding unit—and showed event-goers how it can keep discarded food from going to waste.
On average, event attendees produce around 1.5 pounds of waste per day, about a third of which is food waste. While recycling has become increasingly common at events and venues, food waste is usually intermingled with landfill trash, where it goes to waste and produces harmful methane gases. But if captured and appropriately processed, these negative effects can not only be avoided, but the discarded food can be recycled to create two valuable products: nutrient-dense compost and renewable electricity or transportation fuel!
With the help of the Grind2Energy team and an incredible team of zero-waste volunteers from the University of Louisville Eco-Reps team, Sustainable America engaged festival-goers in a live demonstration of on-site food composting and pre-processing, showcasing the value of common food waste and engaging onlookers in a conversation about what they could do at home to be a part of the solution. From turkey legs and Derby brisket to funnel cakes and paper plates, the Grind2Energy unit gobbled up compostable waste with incredible ease. At the end of the event, the collected food waste was taken to an anaerobic digestion facility in Milwaukee where the final transformation into energy and compost will take place.
Even though many organizers of large events want to do the right thing, achieving a “zero waste” event is very difficult. Part of the problem is that there is a lot of compostable paper waste and utensils that don’t break down easily in traditional composting facilities. That’s where Grind2Energy comes in. It’s powerful enough to grind compostable materials into a mash that facilities can handle, and it stores it all in a sealed, enclosed tank that eliminates odor and pest problems. With this technology, mega events like the Derby, SXSW, or even major football games can all become more sustainable. Check out this short video to learn more about how the Grind2Energy® system works:
Over the next several months, the Sustainable America team will be traveling across the U.S. along with Grind2Energy® to light the country’s imagination about the value of food waste and the great potential it has to transform the way we grow food and power our lives. Check out some of our photos on Facebook and stay tuned for future notes from the road!