This weekend when you come to the Boulder County Farmers’ Market in Boulder and use a reusable bag instead of a disposable one, don’t be surprised if a fellow shopper suddenly hands you a gift of a cookie or starter plant with a grateful greeting of, “We caught you reusing! Thank you!”
Secret shoppers on the lookout to reward those who are reusing are part of a series of new campaigns Eco-Cycle is doing in partnership with the Boulder County Farmers’ Market, the first ongoing zero-waste event in the country. Along with the new campaigns, there will be upgraded zero-waste stations and signage unveiled for the first time on Saturday.
This marks the latest joint effort in a partnership that goes back eight years to Boulder County Farmers’ Market’s transition to a zero-waste event.
Eight years ago when Eco-Cycle and the Boulder County Farmers’ Markets began their relationship, all the cutlery and tableware at the food court was designed to be reused, recycled or composted, and trashcans were replaced by bright zero-waste stations for composting and recycling flanked by volunteers, who helped visitors properly sort their discards. The market has set a new standard for events ever since, serving as a model for other farmers’ markets and event planners across the nation.
This year the two organizations are working together to improve the model with new campaigns to help the market reduce the amount of disposable bags used, help shoppers minimize their environmental impact through efforts like reducing junk mail and increased zero-waste education for shoppers.
“Our shoppers appreciate that the market not only brings them locally grown vegetables, meats, fruits, flowers, plants, gourmet cheeses and wines sold by the farmers that produce them,” said Market Manager Jenn Ross, “but that we do it in a zero-waste way.”
Eco-Cycle Executive Director Eric Lombardi says the zero-waste project with Boulder County Farmers’ Market is one of Eco-Cycle’s most important programs.
“We are grateful to the market for working with us to demonstrate on the microcosm how a community can redesign its systems to be zero waste,” he says. “Visitors get to see how, if everything sold is designed to be reused, recycled or composted, and if we sort it correctly for recovery, the trash can becomes nearly obsolete; we can prevent 90 percent or more of our discards from going to waste in a landfill.”