How State Fairs Are Saving the World

Thu, 2014-05-08 10:51

The fair is in town, and I decided to go because I had a coupon for $2 off the admission. As I was watching the Lady Houdini magic show, the emcee warmed up the crowd with a joke about how the performers and workers recycle on the job. First he showed us an empty, crinkled soda can. He proceeded to smooth out its sides so it looked relatively new. Then he flipped the can over and revealed that he had "pulled" the tab back to its original position so that the soda appeared to be unopened. In his final efforts, the emcee made a fizzing sound and simulated filling the can up with soda. Voila! He had converted an empty soda can into a brand new one right before our eyes. The emcee brought a child from the audience on stage to taste whether the soda was cold and delicious. The child gave his stamp of approval.

Now I have no idea how the emcee performed this trick, but I was impressed. It was a neat magic trick but also brought to mind the idea of sustainability at the fair. After this trick, I found myself looking around to see what other acts of sustainability I could find. I can't say that I found too many examples. I was, however, able to come up with a few suggestions!

Powering the Caravans with Biofuels

As I was leaving the fair, I noticed how many caravans and tractor-trailers were used to hold the event. There had to be at least 10 vehicles. This got me thinking about how many miles these vehicles must travel. One of the fair acts, the Fearless Flores Family, mentioned that they travel all over the country and are only home for two months out of the year. That's a lot of traveling – and a lot of miles.

Tour Buses

Biofuels are energy sources made from living things, or the waste that living things produce. Biofuels can come from a variety of sources, including sugars and starches that are converted into fuel; non-food crops or agricultural waste; algae or other biomass sources; and specially engineered plants. The most common types of biofuel are ethanol and biodiesel.

One way to produce biofuel energy is to use waste oil that was recently used for frying chicken. You heat this oil to reduce its viscosity and filter it to remove all unnecessary residues. After these simple steps, the biofuel is ready to be used. Proponents acknowledge that carbon dioxide may be produced while burning biofuels; however, the amount is much lower in comparison with the emissions that come from burning fossil fuels.

For fair and carnival participants, traveling is a must. It's worth considering a clean fuel for their vehicles, though.

Recycling Tickets and Other Products

One of the easiest ways to cut on expenses would be for the fair to recycle its ticket stubs. Unlike at some events, my admission ticket was not ripped in any way by staff. I simply handed over my ticket and was granted admission into the fair. It seems reasonable that staff could drop each ticket in a bucket for reuse throughout the day and so on. Fairgoers would, of course, miss out on the novelty of a perforated ticket sheet – shucks!

Raffle Tickets

The Minnesota State Fair appears to be the leader in recycling and sustainability efforts. The State Fair has been recycling since the mid-1980s. The fair recycles paper, glass, metal, fluorescent bulbs, vehicle and appliance batteries, antifreeze, beverage containers, automotive oil, tires, grease, meat scraps, manure, construction material, plastic shrink wrap, wood waste, paint, food waste, cardboard, concrete, oil filters, plastic bottles, laser toner cartridges, and more. In 2013, the Minnesota State Fair collected and recycled 33 tons of glass, plastic, and aluminum and 52 tons of food waste.

The Colorado State Fair has also taken measures to increase recycling. In May 2010, the fair received a grant from the state health department to purchase 25 recycling stations. That year, they had collected almost 1,200 pounds of aluminum and 330 cubic yards of plastic and cardboard. The fair was given an Economic Opportunity grant the following year to purchase 76 more recycling stations, 10 cardboard-collection stations, and a cardboard baler. They continue to look for ways to stay current on "greener" options.

Composting Food Scraps

When you throw away food scraps, you release large amounts of methane into the air and unnecessarily take up landfill space. What you can do instead is compost your food scraps. Composting ultimately decomposes the scraps and recycles the remaining matter as a fertilizer. Because compost can be rich in nutrients, you can use these remains in gardens as a soil conditioner and natural pesticide for soil. Considering the amount of food found at a carnival or state fair, there is a lot of opportunity for composting!

Food compost image

The California State Fair is a great example of one organization succeeding at composting. The fair partnered with Allied Waste in 2011 to send fair food to facilities that convert the remains into reusable resources including beneficial compost and animal feed. Each concessionaire's stand proudly displays a green sign that reads "This Vendor Composts, You Can Too." Behind the scenes, each vendor has a 64-gallon container to separate food scraps generated during preparation. Typical waste might include vegetable ends, fruit peels, buns, and meat. After its first year of implementation, the California State Fair kept nearly 60 tons of food waste from ending up in the landfill. This comes out to 118,000 pounds of food!

As you can see, there are several ways that carnivals and fairs can be both entertaining and environmentally friendly. I’m pleased to see that more and more fairs are going green. What is your local fair doing to save energy and be environmentally conscious?

By Lesley Cowie

Photo Credit: u m a m i, Randy Heinitz, and normanack via photopin cc



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