Making World Maker Faire Green

Making World Maker Faire Green
Alyson Schiill wants to you to sort your trash!

When you throw a party for tens of thousands of makers you can expect quite a mess. This year, World Maker Faire New York is expected to draw approximately 70,000 attendees and about 650 makers over the weekend. With a crowd like that, all those coffee cups, pizza crusts, soda cans, and paper plates add up. But Alyson Schill has a plan for all that trash. And the plan is not to treat it like trash at all, but rather a renewable resource.

Trash is wasteful. Trash goes into a landfill where is can emit climate changing methane gas and leach into ground water. It’s a poor use of resources.

“What I do is help Maker Faire reduce its footprint and, most importantly, create an atmosphere for sustainability education,” she said.

Schill is Maker Faire’s sustainability coordinator. Last year at World Maker Faire her program diverted 1 ton of food waste and 6 tons of recyclables. At Maker Faire Bay Area this past May, her program diverted 17.5 tons of compost, 2.2 tons of recyclables, and 4.2 tons of cardboard. All that food was turned into compost and soil and the aluminum cans and cardboard went on to live again as recycled products.

At this weekend’s fair, Schill’s plan is even more ambitious.

There will be bins throughout the venue for sorting trash into the right container. Volunteers will help direct trash into the right bin, but since the bins won’t be sorted it’s important for attendees to pay attention and toss there left over burger buns and beer cups into the right bin. Think before you toss.

All food scraps will be composted on-site at the New York Hall of Science.

Schill’s team will also collect about 200 gallons of cooking oil from food vendors that will be turned into biodiesel. Building materials like PVC pipes, wood scraps, and palettes will be collected for re-use by Build It Green! NYC, a New York-based nonprofit. And most exciting this year, food scraps will be collected and composted on-site by Build It Green! NYC. The pile will live on-site for three months and will be used as a teaching tool for kids visiting the New York Hall of Science long after Maker Faire is gone.

Schill is hoping to get to the point where attendees, makers, and crew expect these kinds of services.

“I want them to demand it. This shouldn’t be a perk, but an expectation.”

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Stett Holbrook is editor of the Bohemian, an alternative weekly in Santa Rosa, California. He is a former senior editor at Maker Media.

He is also the co-creator of Food Forward, a documentary TV series for PBS about the innovators and pioneers changing our food system.

View more articles by Stett Holbrook