Greening the fair

Look for the Green Team to help reduce waste at this year’s event.

Courtesy Island Grown Initiative.

A new initiative at this year’s fair aims to reduce plastic waste, utilize any compostable food scraps, and diminish the waste stream of this major summer event. The Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society will team up with Island Grown Initiative (IGI), the Vineyard Conservation Society, and SailMV in “Greening the Fair.” These efforts were made possible by a grant from the Care for the Cape and Islands philanthropy initiative.

A central part of going green at the fair is the three designated “waste stations,” where fairgoers can dispose of their trash properly and sustainably. No other trash cans will be at the fair, so make sure to look for signs indicating the stations.

A group of 10- to 14-year-olds known as the Green Team Youth Waste Workers, along with a number of adult volunteers, will assist people in sorting their recycling, food waste, and nonrecyclable trash into the proper receptacles. The morning shift includes a light trash pickup in the parking lot. Team members sign up for four- to five-hour shifts, receive free admission on the day they work, and get a Green Team T shirt. Pay is $6 per hour. Kids can sign up online for the few Green Team positions that are still available.

Andy and Gabby Carr, two members of this year’s Green Team, said they are excited to work at the fair to earn some extra money and help the environment. “There’s a lot that people get rid of and they don’t even think about it,” said Gabby, who is now a sophomore at MVRHS. Andy, who is going into seventh grade, worked at last year’s fair, and Gabby has worked at the fair for four years. Andy said he is happy that this year’s fair is oriented toward being environmentally conscious, and hopes that the fair will continue to be green in the future. Sarah Carr, mother of Andy and Gabby, said she is aware of how much trash the fair produces every year. “I think it’s great that they are not only trying to reduce the amount of trash, but they are also trying to teach people about how to conserve and how to dispose of trash the right way,” Carr said. “Even at home, we sometimes throw away too much, even though we do recycle.”

Those looking to volunteer at the fair can also sign up online. Duties of fair volunteers are similar to those of Green Team members. Volunteers also receive a free T shirt and free admission for the days they work.

In recent years, the entirety of food waste, recyclables, and trash from the fair has been weighed.

The IGI weighed the total amount of waste from the two previous fairs. They collected almost 3,000 pounds of organic food waste each year in 2016 and 2017, and used it for compost. Last year alone, 24,620 pounds of total waste was sent to the landfill after the fair.

The Island Grown Initiative hopes to cut the total amount of trash created by the fair by a quarter in upcoming years.

According to Emily Armstrong, development manager for Island Grown, the waste stations will not only benefit the environment, they will also be useful in teaching the public how to live sustainably, and will provide a better perspective on waste management in the community.

“This is a great educational opportunity, for workers and for fair visitors,” Armstrong said.

In tune with being environmentally conscious, Vineyard Conservation has installed a new water-bottle filling station in the Ag Hall, next to the indoor bathrooms. Instead of buying bottled water at the fair, guests are encouraged to bring reusable water bottles, and they’ll have access to cold, filtered, free water whenever they need it. Specialty stainless steel water bottles with the fair poster printed on them will be sold at the Merchandise Booth for anyone who wants some ecofriendly Ag Fair memorabilia.

Vendors at the fair are also encouraged to limit the sale of disposable water bottles, and some have even agreed to take the “Straw Free MV” pledge to not use plastic straws at their booths.