Tired of seeing plastics on the Windsor Town Green? A group of locals is too.

The Waste Less Windsor Task Force, consisting of community members from several organizations within the city, is aiming to reduce the use of plastic materials at the 18th annual Summer Nights on the Green Concerts from May 30 to Sept. 5.

Cathy and Terry Taylor founded the Sonoma Political Education and Action Salon (PEAS) to make a change in their local community and picked last year’s summer concert series to start with.

“(In the 2016 election), there was a great number of  local and state initiatives to vote on, so my wife suggested we get a group of people together who would research and discuss them. We got along so well that we continued to meet after the election, gave ourselves a name (PEAS) and decided we wanted to make a difference in our community,” said Terry in an email. “Several of us were interested in climate change, so we elected to help Windsor move toward zero waste.”

Justin Wilcock, business development and community outreach manager for Sonoma County Resource Recovery, Windsor’s solid waste disposal company, thought the summer concert series could use some help from PEAS for the sorting of recyclables, an increasing issue for waste disposal, due to the changing overseas market for the materials. Streams of recyclable materials must be contamination free to be purchased by buyers in places like China and southeast Asia, meaning that sorting of those materials must be done carefully.

“We were able to get connected right before the first concert last summer,” Wilcock said. “And they dramatically helped improve our efforts there.”

Wilcock said as a small community there were minimal municipal resources available to help, and the PEAS group was able to provide volunteers to help concertgoers separate waste items into the correct containers.

“Our first project was to "green" the town concerts, which we did by attending all of the concerts and assisting attendees with recycling and composting to avoid landfill,” said Terry. “It was estimated that 62% of the landfill waste was diverted to recycling and composting...a big step from 0% in prior years.”  

After an October city council meeting approval, Town of Windsor representatives joined with members of Windsor Chamber of Commerce, Windsor Town Green Merchants Association, Windsor Lions, Windsor Rotary and the Windsor Certified Farmers Market to recommend forming the Waste Less Windsor Task Force to further look into the concerts, according to Wilcock.

The main goal right now is the waste streams at the summer concert series on Thursdays  from 6-8 p.m. and during Windsor Farmers Market on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The task force is looking at serving items and what vendors will be using and ensuring products are truly compostable. A big concern is plastic cups, and they’re voting on several options such as requiring attendees to bring their own and they’ll fill them or supplying reusable cups to vendors and customers.

“We’re working on a few of those things to improve our ability to recover those materials, and then prevent waste from being generated as well,” Wilcock said.

Another focus is on volunteers, which Wilcock said was one of the crucial pieces to making last year a success, having people there to help sort and educate others.

Windsor resident Lynn Brennan said last year’s concert series went well because the group put more large recycling buckets out and felt that concertgoers did their part.

“They picked up their mess, they put everything where it should go,” said Brennan. “If they do that again this year, I think they’ll get a bigger percentage.”

With 14 concert dates, the task force is increasing its efforts this year by recruiting 28 volunteers each night to oversee the 14 recycling stations. They’d like two people per station to answer questions, direct which bin to use and physically sort materials out.

“That’s one effort, the other is around communication and education,” Wilcock said. “Not only will volunteers be educating but we’re trying to reach out before the concerts.”

The Town of Windsor’s website includes a section about the task force. However, there’s only one sentence that says “information coming soon” about its connection with the summer concert series.

Wilcock said the task force is hoping to have more outreach through the chamber, newspaper and other ways to get the word out before the concerts start. They’ll also be making announcements at the concerts themselves to raise visibility and get people thinking about the waste that generates from them.

“If people are bringing their own picnics and items, we’re encouraging people to take it home with them,” Wilcock said. “Bring reusable items instead of single use.”

Waste Less Windsor Task Force meets twice a month, 2 p.m. in the Ficus Room at the Huerta Gym behind the Windsor Town Green. The next meeting takes place on Tuesday, April 23.

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