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Go Green to Get Green

Do me a favor. Take a look in your trash can. Now, depending on what time of the day you’re looking, it could be moderately full or empty but chances are high that there’s a least a thing or two in there that could have been recycled or not even used in the first place. These things add up substantially over days, weeks, months and years and the results can be seen in overfilling landfills across the country.

On average, we generate about 4 ½ pounds of trash a day; this adds up to about 1 ½ tons of solid waste a year. And although we would do well to strive to completely rid our lifestyle of any waste, it would take an incredible effort to make that happen. But what if we at least recycled properly? Within the US, the EPA estimates that despite over 75% of solid waste being recyclable, only about 30% is actually recycled.

Ouch. That leaves quite a bit of room for improvement.

Luckily, we live in a world where “green” means more to most than simply a color and eco-friendly companies are looked upon more favorably. People want to know more about what they can do to help…and that’s where fairs can take a vital role. Not only does this create a lasting impression on the community, it’s an opportunity for your fair to work toward self-sufficiency as we discussed previously.

Shifting Mindsets

A (sometimes) common misconception of fairs is a perception of overflowing trash bins or litter scattered about parking lots. Let’s change that mindset and focus on what fairs can do to become a catalyst for education on sustainability and the plentiful options that fairgrounds can implement to lead the charge. Here are a couple of suggestions to get you started:

Sustainability and Fairs


  • Minimize garbage cans and replace with plentiful, color-coordinated waste receptacles (don’t forget the signage to show people what goes where OR better yet, hire staff or seek volunteers to help visitors sort items
  • Hand dryers installed in bathrooms
  • Provide water bottle filling stations
    • Offer free water bottles for participants that complete sustainability focused games or educational sessions
  • Save energy and money with LED lighting
  • Research various landscaping options that include a bio-filtration feature to catch and filter rainwater through plants (rather than potentially polluted runoff going into storm drains)
  • Use wood shavings for animal bedding/waste instead of spraying a concrete area down with a hose (hint: those wood shavings can be converted into a natural compost)
  • Build waterless, composting toilets (commonly found in parks) instead of hiring temporary, chemical waste treatment companies


  • Require the use of compostable packaging and service products
  • Utilize a bailer to recycle cardboard (often can be sold to a recycled commodities market)
  • Use a trash compactor to minimize the volume of food waste

Go Digital!

  • Offer digital fair maps instead of paper maps which ultimately get thrown away
  • Promote your green offering! People love companies/organizations that are taking the sustainable initiative.
  • Keep the movement active! During non-fair season, keep up the conversation about recycling. Offer fair passes for video-essay contributions and/or “fair cash” to use with vendors for tagging the fair in attendee-submitted images of their year-round efforts

There are a lot of educational opportunities that fairs can offer to their attendees and it’s something best showcased live! By proving to fair-goers that an event as large as a fair with thousands of visitors can be green, you’re building up a reputation that helps your fair’s presence as progressive and adaptive to trends in the market. Additionally, this is an effort that doesn’t go unrecognized. The initiatives that you take to make a more conscious green effort can help to support your bottom line. There are numerous grants and funding opportunities available to those taking strides to educate and implement sustainable practices.

Looking for more inspiration? IAFE’s Igniter Forum is a fantastic resource where you can discuss this topic (and so much more) with a network of fair influencers across the nation!