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Greater Tulsa Reporter

Music Festival Proves Less Waste is Possible

Tulsa Master Recyclers Association

WINNING TRASH TEAM: From left ,Nick Vlaovich, Marley Ames and Rowen Harris won the Trash Collection Kids Contest sponsored by the Homegrown Festival and ADEQ. Led by Ames, the team collected more than 2000 beer cans and 109 ounces of micro-trash. Micro-trash is the tiny bits of non-organic material found on the ground, such as cigarette butts, bottle caps and batteries.

BETH TURNER for GTR Newspapers

This past July brought with it the Second Annual Homegrown Music Festival, held where I was home grown along the Mulberry River in Arkansas. You may remember Trash Talk’s August 2016 column pertaining to its first year, which successfully launched a zero-waste music festival concept. So, I was curious to see how the second year fared from the first.

While the official totals for waste collection are still being calculated, it was another year of beautifully kept grounds and thoughtfully designed planning.

This year, instead of each festivalgoer receiving a reusable utensil kit at entry, the kits were for sale at the merchandise tent. I love my gear from year one and had wondered if they would provide them for year two. While selfishly disappointed, I do feel they’d accomplished their goal of training festival goers to bring a set from home, and the point is to create less waste, not more.

Festival organization still included several smart concepts:

• Utilizing large, lighted event lineup posters instead of printing hundreds of single-person pamphlets.

• The beautiful marble-topped dishwashing station full of kindhearted, hardworking volunteers.

• The free filtered water station was expanded to include more stations and a tent lined with water misters for a cool down walk-through.

• The amount of eco games and activities tripled this year. Homegrown Sustainability Coordinator Taylor Gladwin credits the many businesses and organizations with how well the green education implemented into the festival experience.

To that, not only did Mulberry River Society organize 27 cleanup and dishwashing volunteers and provide unending answers and assistance, they also sponsored the cleanest campsite award, which went to #211, Camp Sunshine.

Another highlight of the green education was the trash pickup contest for kids, which cut down the need for volunteer pickup dramatically. Delivered trash equaled tokens for prizes.

ADEQ’s Betsy Spedich said that they taught a class, which netted a starting hand of two tokens. Kids and their parents learned the rules of the game, pickup safety and procedures, and why they’re doing it. “One thing that gets the most tokens is what we’re calling micro-trash,” says Spedich. “All the little stuff you find ends up in the river, and the chemicals in cigarette butts wind up in our ground water.”

Once the game began, serious competition got underway. Two top contenders battled hard in the fun they found in gathering trash: A kind-hearted mom trailing after her little girl, Pier, reports on why it’s a fun way to spend the morning. “We get to walk around and meet people, and they’re always really helpful and telling her, ‘Hey, thanks for coming out here and doing this,’ and she likes it – being able to talk and help.”

Seven-year-old face-painted Pier was up against tough competition with nine-year-old Marley Ames who recruited a posse for the task: Zane, Rowen and Nick. This gal is no stranger to why it’s important to keep Mama Earth clean.

“Well, I love doing this, but also it’s fun,” says Marley, oblivious to the campground dust and sweat smeared on her face and arms. “At school, I pick up the trash on the playground. I do it because I don’t want the earth to die… It kind of made me start doing this when my dad showed me this video of this island made almost completely out of trash and a flock of birds lived on the island. And a bunch of them, more than half of them are already dead and dying, even baby birds? They were dead because they were eating plastic, and that makes me really sad.”

Looking behind her at the mountain of cans she’d collected, she finished by saying, “And, I want to win the competition, and I want the earth to be healthy and happy.”
Well said, Marley. Well said.

The Ames Posse won the competition with more than 2,000 beer cans collected, and 109 ounces of micro-trash. This netted them several hundred tokens and two tickets to the 2018 Homegrown Festival.

By the way, the music was pretty great, too, so plan a trip to Homegrown in 2018 to come see what I’m talking about, just remember to bring along a cup and fork!

Next month, we’ll be talking about how the city of Tulsa is rallying around recycling. Do you have an idea for increasing interest in recycling? Share your thoughts trashtalktulsa or by emailing While you’re at it, tell me your theory behind why I find batteries in our streets every time I take a walk.

Updated 08-29-2017

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