In 2016, The Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society Fair began the long road to making its annual fair a 0 waste event. Significant strides have been made in this direction. Last year they collected 7,650 pounds of waste — equal to the weight of 31 refrigerators — and hope to collect the same amount, if not more, this year.
According to Sophie Mazza, manager of waste management at the fair, there are a few new sustainability directives happening this year. “We will have our usual landfill, trash, recycling, and compostable waste stations, but we’re excited because this year there will be a sorting tent set up in the back area, where volunteers will be sorting through waste, to capture compostables and recyclable items.”
The Ag Fair will also be working with food vendors to make sure they’re using BPI certified compostable serviceware. BPI certified packaging ensures that food safety standards are met and that serviceware is free of PFAS — man-made chemicals that have been around since the 1940s, and are used in a variety of products like nonstick cookware, carpets, stain-resistant clothing, products that repel grease, fire, water, oil, and some plastics.
To avoid a mountain of empty plastic water bottles, the Ag Fair will be offering an easy alternative. “We have water refill stations throughout the grounds, and this year, Island Source will also provide a water station at the fair. We’re really encouraging people to bring their own cups,” Mazza said.
Every little bit helps and although the negative impact of plastic bottles on the environment is fairly common knowledge, we often forget the impact of food waste. A popular part of the fair is all the delicious food offerings — cotton candy, onion rings, fried dough, and all of the food trucks. So, it’s reassuring to note that all food waste from the fair is sent to Island Grown Initiative (IGI) for composting, which in turn, helps support IGI’s mission of providing food to Islanders in need. For those not in the know, IGI includes a regenerative farm that was founded in 2006. Along with providing food to Islanders in need, IGI’s other goals include increasing food production, reducing food waste, promoting climate-friendly farming techniques, and expanding access to healthy, affordable food. IGI also teaches Island children about the history of food and how to grow and prepare healthy meals.
Another way the Ag Fair is taking steps to combat waste is by encouraging vendors to take action in any way they can. For a number of years, the fair has bestowed the Best Green Booth award to vendors who are making significant efforts to eliminate waste. The Strawberry Shortcake booth won last year, switching their servicewear to compostable gear. In 2019 the fireman’s booth won by reducing extraneous items handed out to fair-goers.
Per the fair manager, the 2023 fair marks the Ag Society’s 161st. Each year the fair celebrates the Island’s farming tradition, and provides Islanders and visitors with entertainment, food, games, activities, and carnival rides.
The fair is a wonderful, but big, undertaking. Often the general public doesn’t know what goes on behind the scenes to not only make the fair run smoothly, but also to do so while leaving a smaller carbon footprint. Tough task, but the Ag Fair powers-that-be are clearly up for the challenge. They could always use a helping hand however, and according to Mazza, they’re seeking volunteer waste management onsite supervisors and teams to work at the new sorting station and in other areas. To volunteer, visit marthasvineyardagriculturalsociety.org/volunteerorworkatthefair.