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One Step further on the Path to Zero Waste: OuiShareFest 2016

Every year, it is our mission at Ouishare to reduce the amount of waste produced during our largest annual event, the OuiShareFest

Conferences are not only known to be environmental catastrophes, it is also a sector where convenience and scalability easily outweigh efforts towards waste reduction. This needs to change, and as an organization who seeks to embody it’s own values in it’s activities, it seems only natural that our events are sustainable as possible and produce ‘Zero Waste’.

Although implementing this is of course no walk in the park, with a part of our OuiShareFest team dedicated to ZW and the help of Zero Waste France we found many sustainable alternatives that were at times simple, sometimes amusing, but also required hard work and sparked several debates.

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‘Zero Waste’ put into practice

While for us ‘Zero Waste’ meant jumping through a few extra loopholes, the effect on participants’ experiences of OuiShareFest2016– if there was one at all- seemed positive. Sure, some of us felt a little awkward queuing for the ‘dry toilets’ that use sawdust instead of a conventional flush. However aspects like proper cutlery and the re-usable Ouikit tableware for food and drink were certainly appreciated as an alternative to the flimsy plastic knives that barely withstand a potato.

We offered a limited number of printed programs alongside the online program application ‘sched’ this year as wifi can be moody. However, we avoided flyers and OuiShare gifts, and encouraged our partners to do the same, allowing them to distribute only  useful or reusable items like pens or mugs.

We rented reusable infrastructures and second hand furniture, cooked with ‘leftover’ produce that was meant for the bin, and used badges as well as decorations and banners from previous OuiSharefest’s that were consciously printed without the year. Products were bought in bulk, we installed public waste collection stations and finally the most of the effort was put towards a proper disposal of the waste.

 

Measuring the outcome

In the end, only 14 % of the total 963 kg of waste produced were sent to the incinerator. With 5 632 attendees, this mounts up to less than 200g per person! Over half of the waste was organic and compostable, the majority of this being coffee beans and bodily waste from the dry toilets, while the rest, of which only 3% was plastic, was recycled.

Of course, strictly speaking this may not be ‘zero’. However for us, ‘zero waste’ implies the attempt to produce as close to zero as possible. Indeed, if something serves a specific purpose that cannot be replaced by digital or other means, (like paper and pen for workshops) then we permitted this as a valuable resource that used efficiently. Perhaps for now a better term would be ‘near zero waste’ – of course with the hope of being ‘zero’ some day.

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