On this week’s episode of Tent Talk we’re repeating Episode 19 on aiming for zero waste markets, with Portland Farmers’ Market Operations Director Amber Holland. Many months ago Amber joined us to discuss the Durable Dining Program and other waste reduction efforts. Meanwhile, she was back at the 2019 InTents Conference in February to lead a lively discussion on how farmers’ markets can become zero waste events. 

Market shoppers support zero waste

We learned from Amber and other attendees at the InTents Conference that market shoppers are excited and engaged when it comes to reducing waste. From hauling reusable bags to depositing plates and forks in dish tubs positioned throughout the market, shoppers are willing to cooperate. The biggest roadblock to eliminating single use items is the public’s insistence on convenience. Farmers’ market shoppers, by nature, already buy into the little extra efforts it takes to shop at markets. They’re willing to exchange parking lots, shopping carts and central cashiers to gain personal relationships and fresher food at local markets. So adding a little extra time to bring back refillable containers and produce bags is right up their alley.

Regulations can make it harder

Cities across the country are passing styrofoam bans and encouraging zero waste initiatives. At the same time, many municipalities struggle to manage effective recycling programs. Composting programs are few and far between, and collecting compostables is often prohibited by local regulations. The Durable Dining program that is so successful at the Portland Farmers’ Markets is not currently allowed under California’s food safety laws. Local health departments may prohibit the return of refillable containers. Organizations like Farmers’ Market Coalition and state market associations continue to work with state, county and city representatives to change rules around waste-elimination efforts.

Sponsors are enthusiastic

Since zero waste is such a positive message, sponsors are happy to align with efforts at farmers’ markets. Community banks and credit unions jump on board to cover the expense of reusable bags, refillable water bottles and travel mugs at many markets. Real estate companies and other local businesses underwrite incentives for shoppers who bike or bus to market. Water delivery services may exchange a booth space for water systems to refill shoppers’ and vendors bottles. Let local media outlets know that your farmers’ market is introducing new zero waste initiatives and you can increase your market’s profile while you reduce waste.

Where can I listen to the full episode of Tent Talk?

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