Create A Zero Waste Kit for Park Events

There is a joyous feeling seeking family celebrations, important milestones and casual connections happen in parks. However, as park events wind down take-out containers, decorations, water bottles, streamers and cans are all left behind, often overflowing waste bins.

As we’ve seen these scenes repeated over the summer months, it became clear that we need a better plan to manage waste in parks. How can we help bolster connect green spaces to the incredible shifts we need to make to preserve the planet.

Park People developed a Zero Waste program to help community park groups host low-waste events in parks, with an emphasis on Toronto Neighbourhood Improvement Areas. The goal of the program is to make less waste mean more for community park groups and park enthusiasts.

As a core part of the program, we developed Zero Waste Park Kit for community park group-hosted events. It’s an approach we hope you’ll replicate in your community.

What’s in the Zero Waste Park Kit?

The Zero Waste Kit features reusable ‘food ware items that replace the single-use disposable items that are used once and end up in landfills.

The tried and true items that we found worked best in the kit are:

 

What are the Challenges of Hosting Zero Waste Park Events?

 

Hosting zero-waste events and putting the Zero Waste Kit to use gave us keen insights into the challenges you may face at your park event and workarounds for making zero waste happen in your park.

 
Storage:

 

One of the biggest challenges was storing the Zero Waste Kit. Storage can be particularly difficult for park groups situated in dense communities where space is at a premium. Ideally, you can find a homeowner who is willing to lend out garage space to store the kit. If that’s not possible, partner with a community group that has storage space and share the kit with them.
Keep in mind that if you’re sharing the kit, you’ll need to come up with a transportation plan. In our case, a Park People staff personally delivered the kit to groups based on a coordinated schedule in a particular region. However, a cargo bike could do the trick too.

 

 

The more elaborate the kit, the more challenging transportation and storage become. For example, we added tables and tents to the Zero Waste Kit based on demand from groups. However, these additions made the kits far less compact and made car transportation necessary.

 
Preparation and Education:

 

The most important lesson we can share is that it’s not enough to drop off a Zero Waste Kit and expect the group to adopt new practices.

There’s a need to educate event leaders long before the Zero Waste event is scheduled to happen. Someone needs to champion the issue in order for it to take hold and spread.

Also, there are important tips to help minimize trash. For example, through experience, we witnessed that when events are hosted in areas where there is easy access to city-owned bins, people will use them. The use of city-owned bins makes it impossible for your group to re-sort misplaced items and engage the community in a sorting exercise. Avoid having any black garbage bags, disposable (single-use) items at the event. Having these things around tends to undermine the Zero Waste mission.

 

 

 

Be sure to delegate waste management to someone other than the event lead. This role requires someone’s dedicated attention which is next to impossible when overseeing an entire event. This person can be stationed near the waste bins, helping people put items in the correct bins. Your waste management will be much simpler if you provide clear signage that indicates what goes in which bin. Make your signs graphic with images of items that can be understood in any language.

Promote the fact that your group is hosting a Zero Waste event in all of your advertising and outreach. Be sure to provide attendees with a demonstration of where waste, dirty dishes and food scraps at intervals throughout the event.

 
Flexibility:

 

Even though it was our intention to ensure events were entirely waste-free, there are situations where that simply cannot be achieved. The most important thing is to remain open-minded and agile. There’s a learning and experience curve for achieving Zero Waste and it’s an intention rather than a concrete “must do.”

 

 

We learned along the way that many people don’t trust the water that comes out of the taps in their apartment buildings. For them, providing cups for tap water was not going to get uptake. If you know this in advance you can suggest larger bottles of water that can be rented from supermarkets instead of providing individual, single-use water bottles. Celebrate success at every step of the journey.

 


 

Generously Supported by The Balsam Foundation with additional support from

Catherine Donnelly Foundation

A Community Clean Up in a Pandemic

Katelyn Palmer was waiting for the streetcar on the corner of Dundas and Sumach when she spotted a poster from Friends of Regent Park inviting the community to a winter festival.  Katelyn moved into Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood as it transitioned from a 69 acre social housing neighbourhood to a community with both rent-geared-to-income and market units.

Katelyn quickly joined the trusted community park group in a neighbourhood where 57 different languages are spoken. Katelyn loved how Friends of Regent Park celebrates community’s incredible diversity, whether it be baking culturally-specific goodies in the bake oven or hosting awesome summer festivals that feature live performances.

Every year during Earth Week, Friends of Regent Park organizes a clean-up that typically brings 120 community members together. The park group provides lunch prepared by Muslim Welfare Canada to anyone that participates and together  they collect around 80 bags of waste (40 bags of garbage and 40 bags of recycling.) 

This year, COVID-19 brought community gatherings and outdoor programming to a standstill and Friends of Regent Park had to cancel their large public clean-up. But Katelyn couldn’t let the day go by without giving back. “Even in the middle of a pandemic,” she says,

“it is so important to nurture and be custodians of our amazing parks.”

Katelyn took a plastic bag, put on her gloves and mask, and set out to clean the park on her own. 

It was the start of something great. After Katelyn’s first solo clean-up, Friends of Regent Park started meeting every two weeks in groups of five physically-distanced volunteers to clean the park. On average, they collect five bags per clean-up. 

It’s certainly a different clean-up event this year as there’s no food and there aren’t any celebrations at the end of the massive volunteer effort. But Katelyn still feels gratified that she’s able to help her community enjoy green spaces when they need it most. And of course, there’s the sense of pride she feels when a group of neighbours cheer her on and thank her – all from six feet away.

Friends of Regent Park’s next physical distancing clean up is set for this Saturday June 20, beginning at 10am.

 

This content was developed with support from: 

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