Rougarou Fest organizers continue effort to reduce waste
HOUMA, La. (AP) — At last year's Rougarou Fest, participants navigated new recycling and zero waste stations when throwing away trash as part of the organizer's effort to limit the trash produces by the festival.
Jonathan Foret, South Louisiana Wetlands Discovery Center executive director, said the goal is to make the festival zero waste by 2023.
"Or at least that's the goal," he said.
It's been difficult for organizers to find ways to completely eliminate waste because much of the food is packaged in plastic when it arrives, like hot dogs and burger buns.
The zero waste movement has several definitions but focuses on conserving resources and intentionally avoiding sending waste to a landfill through a variety of strategies.
At this year's festival on Oct. 26 and 27, organizers are trying to use up their remaining Styrofoam items and eventually replace them with compostable bowls, silverware and cups that are made of a plant-based plastic.
They will also wrap burgers and desserts in wax paper instead of their previous material that was a mix of paper and aluminum that couldn't be recycled or composted.
Vendors are also being encouraged to have participants take photos of the information they have displayed at their station rather than handing out flyers or postcards that will likely end up in the trash.
Foret said the festival itself will only hand out one piece of paper -- a guide that shows where all of the activities are located.
While the success of an event is sometimes judged by the amount of trash produced, Foret said organizers want to change that.
"That speaks to our focus on consumption in society," he said. "I want to be judged on how little trash we produce with how many people are there."
The effort aims to not only reduce the waste produced but introduce the community to new products and procedures that they could incorporate in their own lives.
Raegan Creppell, the president of the discovery center's foundation, said that as an organization focused on teaching, the center wants to expose people to new things and help "change the norm."
She said organizers want the festival's move toward a zero waste approach to be a positive experience for their attendees. They don't want something like a bamboo fork snapping to sour a participant's view of non-plastic items.
"We can't have them have that experience and then not want to include it in their daily lives," she said. "Then you're not teaching them anything good."
Though Foret believed the transition would be easier than it has been, he said he's thankful that 2019 will be year two of the five-year commitment.
"We have another three years to get better at it," he said. "One of the things I am really excited about is that we can be the trailblazers on this, especially in our area."
Without a community compost area in Terrebonne or Lafourche parishes, the waste placed in the compost bins are still sent to the landfill. Foret said someone would need to lead an initiative to start a community compost or a commercial compost entity from outside the area would need to come in to pick up the waste.
Creppell and Foret said they would like to see people from the community who are passionate about the zero waste lifestyle to step forward and volunteer their ideas to help.
"We're hoping to find more solution-oriented people that can say, 'Oh, you want to be zero waste? How about we try this?'" said Creppell. "Just because we don't know doesn't mean there won't be somebody that doesn't."
Information from: The Courier, http://www.houmatoday.com