On Nov. 19, the Sebastopol City Council added a new zero waste component to the special event permit required for large events on city property, such as Ives Park or Libby Park.

The new guidelines require event organizers to do the following:

  • avoid the use of non-recyclable products;
  • use reusable food service ware whenever possible;
  • place compost and recycling cans alongside trash cans.

Event organizers have to describe their zero waste strategy in their event permit application, and they and all of their vendors have to sign an agreement to abide by the zero waste guidelines.

“The applicant really has to give some forethought and show some planning,” said Zero Waste Committee lead Sunny Galbraith, a local educator and environmental activist.

Galbraith is especially proud of one-page addendum that she said will help event planners understand the new requirements and get their food vendors on board.

“We got it all on one page — that's the biggest accomplishment of all,” she joked. (See PDF in sidebar.)

In addition to the one-pager, the guidelines also include an extensive list of resources to help event organizers find services that can support their zero waste efforts, including event services from Recology, local event “greeners” and food runners for redistributing unserved leftover food.

Galbraith has helped to “green” many local events. She recently “greened” the annual Pancake Breakfast at the Sebastopol Fire Station. Galbraith and her students are also credited with establishing the reusable utensil program at the Sebastopol Farmers Market.

The new zero waste component of the city’s special event permit was created by the city of Sebastopol’s Zero Waste Subcommittee, which was formed in 2018, shortly after the city committed to zero waste by 2030.

“I know there was a little bit of lamenting that we didn't get to be first on the climate emergency resolution, but we can be first on this, and I am so excited about it,” Galbraith told the city council. “I know there's a lot of other cities watching what we do.”

Though the current guidelines only apply to city properties, Galbraith said later that the Zero Waste Committee might approach other large venues within the city, such as Sebastopol Center for the Arts and the Grange Hall, and ask them to encourage groups who rent those halls to voluntarily cooperate with the zero waste guidelines.

The zero waste component of the special events permit includes but goes beyond Sebastopol’s polystyrene ban, which passed unanimously at the March 19 city council meeting, making the city of Sebastopol the first city in Sonoma County to ban polystyrene service ware. The polystyrene ban goes into effect next week, starting on Monday, Nov. 25.

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