Poetry Friday Guest Blog: Greening the Dodge Poetry Festival

Posted on by Jenny Vickers, Clean Water Fund, NJ Communications Director

Let’s face it – festivals and big events produce a lot of waste. Think of all the single use items, like plastic and Styrofoam, we toss in the trash instead of recycling, reusing or even entirely avoid using. Everything that ends up in this “trash” eventually makes its way to our landfills and incinerators. These waste facilities are huge sources of water and air pollutants (dirtier than coal per kilowatt), linked to climate change and health disorders such as asthma and cancer.

This is why The Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, NJ Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Clean Water Fund (CWF), and the City of Newark have partnered together to make the Dodge Poetry Festival 2012 as “waste free” as possible. Over the course of four October days, downtown Newark will transform into the largest poetry village in North America, with poets and audiences talking and mingling both inside the venues and outside, while food vendors will provide a wide choice of food and drink.

That’s where Clean Water Fund comes in. We have assembled a dynamic “Green Team” to educate and involve all participants – the staff of NICO restaurant, other event food vendors and Festival audiences – in the principles of sustainability, recycling and waste reduction. When someone asks, “Where can I throw this away?” CWF’s trained volunteers and staff will be on hand to help you easily turn most of your “waste” into a resource.
Resource Collection stations will be located throughout the NJPAC plaza area. Each will feature 5 containers to accept:

 recyclable plastic (#1-7), glass and metals;
 cardboard and mixed paper;
 compostables including all food and vegetable waste, biodegradable plates and utensils, and waxed cardboard in a closed lid container;
 liquids in a 5 gallon bucket, and finally;
 incinerator and landfill waste.

As a result, if sorted correctly, we anticipate the largely incinerator-bound trash bin will contain little more than plastic wrappers, bags, and juice boxes.

Once a bin is full, the material is taken to the “Back of House” where another CWF team will inspect the bags, weigh the materials, and prepare them for pick-up and reuse. You might ask, “Why weigh the bags?” By weighing the bags, we better understand how much waste vs. resource is generated, assess how we can reduce the amount of waste produced even further, and create types of new local businesses and jobs needed to move the City of Newark closer towards achieving its “zero waste” goals, much like Austin, New York City, Chicago, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon are beginning to undertake.

Clean Water Fund is very excited and honored to be on hand to promote environmental awareness and action at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival. But our efforts at the Festival are intended to lead to something much bigger. CWF is working with the City of Newark on its soon to be released Sustainability Action Plan, as well as food waste pilot programs in Newark Public Schools and Beth Israel Hospital. Ultimately, our goal is to reduce the amount of waste ending up in the Newark incinerator, as well as establish waste reduction practices at NJPAC and other Newark venues on a permanent basis. In doing so, we make the city a healthier place to live, work and play, save money, and create opportunities for green business development and employment for Newark area residents.

For more information about Clean Water Fund and its programs, visit: www.cleanwaterfund.org/nj or call Jenny Vickers at 732-280-0370


Clean Water Fund (CWF) is a grantee of the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. Clean Water Fund’s mission is to develop strong grassroots environmental leadership and to bring together diverse constituencies to work cooperatively for changes that improve their lives, focused on health, consumer, environmental and community problems. Clean Water Fund helps people campaign for cleaner and safer water, cleaner air, environmental justice, protection from toxic pollution in our homes, neighborhoods and workplaces, and emerging green economy and jobs. Since 1982, CWF has operated locally staffed programs (from offices in Belmar, Trenton, Marlton, Montclair and Newark), CWF collaborates closely with the New Jersey Environmental Federation, an organization of 100 member groups, 100,000 individual members, and 75,000 email action subscribers.

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