An influx of up to 40,000 people in a town with a population of about 3,000 could equate to a ghastly amount of trash.
The High Country Conservation Center is working with the town of Frisco to keep the amount of waste produced during the Colorado BBQ Challenge to a minimum.
Cassidy Callahan, HC3’s programs and events coordinator, has worked behind the scenes for more than a month to recruit volunteers, work with vendors to obtain compostable materials and coordinate with the town of Frisco to make the challenge a zero-waste event.
“It’s awesome,” she said. “It gives such a good image to the event when we are able to reduce our waste by 80-90 percent. It looks good for everyone.”
The event couldn’t be zero waste without the cooperation of visitors. Among the mix of vendors and patrons at the barbecue challenge is an army of green-shirt do-gooders.
About 150 volunteers are stationed up and down Main Street. Their efforts drastically reduce the amount of waste produced at the event, by steering guests away from trash receptacles and toward compost and recycle bins.
“There’s a lot of people here and a lot of people don’t realize what’s compostable, what’s waste and what’s recyclable,” volunteer Meghann Flanigin said. “I think it’s important to guide people in the right direction.”
The volunteers giving their time to keep the event green range in age and background.
“A lot of them have been working here year after year,” Callahan said. “They know that they are volunteering to make a good impact on the environment and our beautiful mountain area.”
In addition to “good karma,” Callahan said, volunteers get $10 in “hogbacks” and get their names put in a drawing to win an Arapahoe Basin Ski Area season pass.
Barbecue vendors play a big part in keeping the event earth friendly. All vendors must adhere to the zero-waste standards of the event. Every disposable item handed out must be compostable.
“Compostable cups aren’t much more expensive than the regular stuff, and you don’t have to deal with Styrofoam in your water, or plastic glomming up your rivers,” Callahan said.
Event organizers take their green standards seriously.
“If the vendor does not comply with that, they aren’t welcome back the next year,” Callahan said.
Zero-waste volunteers got up early Friday morning to inspect vendor tents to make sure they had the proper materials and to help get them, if necessary. Callahan said she’s been talking with vendors to make sure everyone stays on the same page.
“Ninety-nine percent of the vendors are awesome,” she said. “They know what they are doing and are respectful of the rules and give it their all.”
When all is said and done, HC3 works to make sure material ends up where it belongs.
“We work with haulers and the county to make sure the compost ends up in the compost, the recycling all gets sorted and the small amount of trash we do produce ends up in the landfill,” Callahan said.
Although a lot of time and effort goes into the making the Frisco’s event environmentally friendly, Callahan said the result is worth the trouble.
“It’s a great way to get people involved. And it’s a nice way to keep your community looking beautiful and keeping as much as possible out of the landfill,” she said.
Callahan also said she hopes the no-waste concept will continue to spread throughout Summit County and Colorado.
“It’s a really good thing, and hopefully with time it just becomes the standard.”