St. John's Zero Waste Festival Highlights

zero waste - we can get closer then we think!

October was Circular Economy Month in Canada, and it showed up in St. John’s.

October 15 was a glorious sunny Sunday. Perfect for the inaugural Zero Waste Festival.  The event took place at the Centre des Grands-Vents on Ridge Road - a community centre and a school operated by the Association communautaire francophone de Saint-Jean (ACFSJ)Project lead was St. John's Tool Library with funding support from MMSB.

It was a day-long, milestone event that brought different parts of the sustainability community together for the first time.  There were speakers, demonstrations, workshops, a market, food vendors and hundreds of people coming together to look for ways to live more sustainably.... and they found them.

Oddly and interestingly, the most remarkable thing about the Zero Waste Festival was that at the end, when it was all said and done, there was next to nothing left for the landfill.  Obviously given the intent of the event, it shouldn't have been surprising, but it was so different from typical event break-down, it was!

St. John's has lots of Zero Waste Options

Festival participants found dozens of ways to get closer to zero waste!  

The event launched at 11 with greetings from representatives of the organizing committee Etienne Vuilliaume, Charley Mini, and Audrey Parnell.   Provincial Minister Sarah Stoodley and Jill Bruce from City of St. John's voiced their support and delight in the Festival.

Two of the Zero Waste Festival Team, Audrey Parnell of the St. John's Tool Library and Charly Mini of the AFCSJ, join Government of NL Minister Sarah Stoodley and City of St. John's Councillor Jill Bruce for a photo

a place to bring recyclables (and more materials to recover!)

Throwing useful things to the landfill goes against the nature of many in Newfoundland and Labrador, but people are challenged by what to do with things that aren't part of the regular recycling pick-up.

The Zero Waste Festival had answers!

The joy on the faces of people dropping ¼ lb of aluminum pop tabs into the right bin was a sight to behold!  They will do good for people as wheelchair materials through Pop Tabs for Wheelchairs.

Here’s the full list of Materials Recovery Stations at the Festival.  The goal is for this station to be set up permanently at the St. John’s Tool Library, so people can bring their materials for recovery during Library opening hours.

three images:  the first with recoverable household waste - crayons, oral hygiene, crayons, aluminum pop tabs, coffee bags, batteries.  the second with small labelled bins for batteries, aluminum pop tabs.  The third with large recycling bins.
There was a Materials Recovery Station for all the recoverable materials at the Zero Waste Festival. Guide to the Good and Luke Welsh photos.

157 pounds of materials recovered at Zero Waste Festival

People were so happy to bring in materials for recovery!  In just a couple of hours more than 157 lb was collected, including very very lightweight items like aluminum pop tabs!  Seven pounds were collected!  Batteries were the biggest weight, at about 98 lb.

less waste from source 

The Grands-Vents gymnasium was wall to wall with more than 20 community businesses and organizations who shared information, insights, products and services to help make a more sustainable lifestyle possible.  It was a mini-marketplace bustling with eco- conscious vendors offering sustainable products, plastic-free alternatives, zero waste essentials, and locally sourced goods. 

The message was clear - we have what we need in St. John's to create much less waste!

tables set up in a gymnasium in preparation for visitors to the Zero Waste Festival
Just before doors open for visitors, exhibitors and vendors finish setting up for the Zero Waste Festival. Luke Welsh photo.

zero waste vendors in St. John's

Guide to the Good played a role in organizing the event and was excited to be repping Guide to the Good ChangeMakers.

The focus of the day were businesses who have a specific role to play in helping people create less waste, and helping create community through quality products and services that are re-used, repaired, recreated, restored, or created to last. 

Either way, it's so so much less to the landfill.

a young man, a woman and a child give the thumbs up behind two laptops at the Zero Waste Festival
Three thumbs up! The team of Guide to the Good staff and volunteers are excited to share zero waste stories of members

Go Zero trivia challenge

To get the good energy flowing, Guide to the Good created a great game specifically for the Zero Waste Festival. 

Hello / Bonjour Guide to the Good Go Zero Trivia Challenge in English and French! 

The goal of the game was to identify a dozen or so companies that help residents live a lower footprint just by doing what they do. From donating and buying used building materials to a good use for used linens to a restorative, zero-waste vacation - it's all here. Players used QR codes linked to the Guide to the Good website to find the answers for the entry form.

The Go Zero Prize Pack was worth hundreds of dollars!  A happy zero-waste enthusiast Nicolai von Oppeln Bronikowski was the winner of the prize pack.

But you can still test your knowledge here - Click here to play!

Game poster for the Go Zero Trivia Game.  The question in English and French with the words - who upcycles bottles and glass - an image of upcycled bottles and a QR code in English and French for the answer
The Go Zero Trivia game, in English and French, was fun and players learned about zero waste options in St. John's. Luke Welsh photo.

talking action to Zero Waste

Good conversations kept going around through the day!  Visitors and vendors exchanged ideas and information all with the goal of leaving less.

The Bee’s Knees sold goods like laundry sheets that make zero waste possible in the home.  Again & Again Furniture and Decor Thrift  shared their work - they restore and upcycle furniture and housewares, and they do amazing craft work, including spinning wool.  

Tech start-up founder and data scientist Heather Zurel of Data Farms showed how her company helps reduce food waste BIG TIME, with sensors that monitor crop conditions.  

Three images:  Left is a Bees Knees banner and three people talking behind a table.  Middle is a smiling woman surrounded by quilts and knitted goods. Right are two people backon talking to a masked representative from CurbIt St. John's.
The Bees Knees (left), The Bee Sisters (no relation!) and her scrappy quilts (centre), and Curb It St. John's used their space to help others make less waste. Luke Welsh photos.

reusing options from glass to material

Newfoundsand Glass Recycling Co-op shared the vision of a province where household glass is recycled and re-used.

The Outfitters showed much of their stuff that let’s people enjoy the outdoors with a small little footprint, and Bern from The Bee Sisters brought gorgeous t-shirt quilts that made less waste and celebrated moments of a child’s life.

Reps from The East Coast Trail were on hand to share the how-to of the trail system. 

Right on the spot, Marilyn Bessey helped kids (and adults) make carry-bags out of t-shirts!

There was also face painting, kid crafts, and a little playground for kids to play.

Two women, one older one younger and three children smiling around a large round table filled with material and scissors
Zero Waste Festival volunteer Marilyn Bessey helped visitors make carry-bags out of old t-shirts using just scissors.

Zero Waste Food

The Zero Waste Festival Committee was so happy to have support and cooperation to strive for zero waste from food service providers.  

Food prepared by Cojones and Mama Africa was served on trays that were washed and reused on site.  People were asked to bring their own containers if they wanted take-away, and Planeet Consulting set up an on-site food material recovery station in the cafeteria.  It all went full circle!

Live composting demonstration at Zero Waste Festival

Using the leftover organics (food but there wasn't much - it was too yummy!),  Viviana Ramirez-Luna of Planeet took visitors through the process of small-scale composting.  

The sunshine, the great outdoors, and the Grands-Vents facility with its small-scale compost system made for a perfect environment for the live composting demo. (Side note - anyone who is a member of the ACFSJ Community can bring their organics to the bins, and receive compost).

People outdoors on a sunny day gathered around buckets as the leader gives instruction on composting
Viviana Ramirez-Luna of Planeet Consulting gives a lively and entertaining composting demo at the St. John's Zero Waste Festival

workshops that teach zero waste skills

Three workshops helped participants build skills that lead to less waste.  There was clothes mending with East Coast Quilt Co., recycled rug hooking with Hooked Creations NL, and bicycle maintenance with East Coast Groms.

Participants LOVED the feeling of learning to do things with their own hands. 

women gathered around a table rug hooking
Winnie Glavine of Hooked Creations led a very popular workshop on rug hooking at the Festival. It's a historic, skilled practice that creates useful art from scraps. Luke Welsh photo.
man holding a bicycle wheel
Bike maintenance is a great zero waste effort. Luke Welsh photo.

line-up of Zero Waste speakers

The Festival featured an impressive line-up of speakers.  Shelly Pardy from the City of St. John’s shared lots of unknown facts about the Robin Hood Bay Waste Management Faciility.    Julia Canning and Mfon Oton spoke about the MMSB’s efforts in public education and waste diversion programs.  Charly Mini of the ACFSJ shared his insight and experience about the community composting program at the Centre.

woman presenting diagram of Robin Hood Bay Waste Management Facility on a big screen
Speaker Shelly Pardy of the City of St. John's shared details of the Robin Hood Waste Management Facility complex where a variety of materials are recovered for re-use.
a man and a woman standing in front of a big screen presenting  reThink Your Waste Public Education from MMSB
Public Education is a key goal of MMSB, thus the support of the Zero Waste Festival. Mfon Oton and Julia Canning of MMSB gave an informative presentation at the St. John's Zero Waste Festival.

foraged flowers for less waste

The St. John's Zero Waste Festival came together to help community realize there are real, practical things to do and choices to make that will make a difference.

Right here at home, there are options for everyday choices for purchase and lifestyle that leave zero waste! 

And bring joy.  Newfoundland Floral Design brought much joy to festival participants with random acts of flowers! 

photos of women with bouquets of flowers
Sweet local and foraged flowers from Newfoundland Floral Design with eco-packaging are good for the earth, and for the heart!

Zero Waste Festival wound up in song

The full-day of events was wrapped up in song.  The Francophone Association choir,  La Rose des vents, gave an uplifing performance in the theatre to close off the 1st Zero Waste Festival. 

The Zero Waste Festival was an initiative of the St. John's Tool Library.  The organizing commitee included co-chairs Etienne Vuilliaume and Audrey Parnell, with Sabrine Adjinakou (Horizon TNL to August 2023), Charly Berrichon (ACFSJ), Dan O'Keeffe (SJTL), Mike Schultz (SJTL), Eric Tremblay (Horizon TNL), and Kim Todd (Guide to the Good).

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Kim Todd

Kim Todd is the founder of Guide to the Good, and being part of this Zero Waste Festival was really a dream come true. When thegreenrock, began, it was with a vision for a sustainable Newfoundland and Labrador. This was a giant step.