Sustainability Tip: What you need to know about zero-waste events in the Vail Valley |

Sustainability Tip: What you need to know about zero-waste events in the Vail Valley

By William Schmick
Special to the Daily
Walking Mountains Science Center's sustainability and zero waste management teams are often seen at large events throughout the year.
Special to the Daily

If you are out and about at the Vail Farmers Market and other events in Eagle County, you might have seen the big green tents and perhaps some eager Walking Mountains Science Center staff or volunteers asking to help you with your trash.

Walking Mountains’ Sustainability “Zero-Waste” team works with town and event coordinators in the Vail Valley to provide waste diversion services, and those green zero hero tents are the waste diversion stations – where the magic happens.

Waste diversion, in short, is finding alternative and more sustainable ways to dispose of waste instead of the landfill. Zero-waste events take that concept to the public, typically by diverting as much as possible to recycling and composting.

The Zero-Waste team sorts and weighs all of the trash, recycling and compost by hand (though much of the sorting has already been done by supportive event-goers), ensuring that everything is in the right place. At the Vail Farmers Market this summer, up to 88% of the overall waste each week has been diverted from the landfill and into recycling or compost, totaling about 1,800 pounds diverted.

Almost everyone wants to do the right thing: recycle and compost where possible and avoid the negative downstream effects of disposing of our waste. However, knowing exactly how to divert your waste can be confusing, and the rules may be a little different out and about than at home. That’s why those green tents are there.

The Vail Farmers Market was the first zero-waste event in Eagle County, and since then the program has grown significantly. You can now see the tents at about 100 days of events annually up and down the valley, all with accompanying staff to help you out. So when you see our green tents, come say hello, and do not be afraid to “talk trash” with us.

Here are some tips for when you see a green tent.

If you are confused, ask for help.

There is always a Walking Mountain Sustainability Zero-Waste staff member or volunteer nearby. They can help you navigate the decision of whether to place your items in compost, recycling, or landfill. If you don’t see a staff member or volunteer, the free Eagle County Waste Wizard App is a fantastic and quick way to figure out which bin to use.

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

In addition to serving as sorting stations, the tents are educational experiences. We hope to engage your interests and spark conversation as you contemplate how to manage your waste and why. We always double check each bag before it goes into the respective dumpster, but if you can take the time to think about which bin you use and why, that is a huge help to us, and a learning experience for you.

Remember to thank your favorite vendors for being green.

The vendors at zero-waste events are team-players. We can’t do our job without every vendor supplying the correct serviceware that can be diverted at our zero waste stations. If you enjoyed their product, remember to thank them for being green as well.

William Schmick is a Sustainability Intern with Walking Mountains Science Center. You can see him putting zero waste into action at the final Vail Farmers Market of the year this Sunday. Contact him at

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