“Leave no trace” at events, too

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During the first night at Startup Weekend Twin Cities we bought cases of bottled water for the attendees. Now Friday was over and I was throwing away 150 plastic bottles, not all of them empty. I could feel Mother Earth sigh a deep sigh of disappointment.

I started to think about the last time I went camping and how important the “Leave No Trace” code of outdoor ethics was to me. I make it a point to try and find at least one piece of forgotten trash so I can carry out more trash than I brought in.

Question: Which is worse – leaving one empty bottle laying on the ground in the woods, or throwing away 150 bottles after an event?

Why is “leave no trace” associated only with the outdoors? We summon it to the front of our minds only when we’re in the wilderness, despite knowing that our behavior while operating in the civilized world arguably affects the environment in even greater ways. When you are in civilization, your eyes are already seeing lots of metal and plastic around you. The impact of throwing away lots of packaging doesn’t feel as great because there’s already so much waste visibly around you. It’s contextual.

    • Why shouldn’t we always be trying to leave no trace – no matter where we are?
    • Why should you only pick up trash that you see in the wilderness – why not pick up a few pieces laying on the city sidewalk?
    • At a fast food joint, why take 10 napkins when all you need it one?
    • Why do you say yes when the grocery store clerk asks if you want your items double-bagged?
    • Why are you buying bottled water for your event?
As an event organizer, you have an even greater responsibility since you’re the one planning the event and buying all the stuff.

“The next time you throw a party or host an event, be conscious of the waste you will generate and plan accordingly. “

    • Instead of soda cans, buy 2-liters and plastic cups.
    • Instead of bottled water, buy 2.5 gallon jugs. Or better yet, fill up a cooler with ice and make people drink from the tap (it’s just as good).
    • Give people a marker to write their name on their cups so they use it more than once.
    • Instead of ordering 10% more food “just to be safe,” order 3-5 additional servings only. Bring untouched leftovers to a local food bank.

There are other benefits to this than doing your part to not destroy the environment – you’ll also end up spending less money and spending less time cleaning up.

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