The Dodge Poetry Festival Has Zero Waste Goals

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Green Team Dodge Poetry Fest Photo by Jenny Vickers (2)

A green army of volunteers will be on hand at the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival when thousands of people flock to downtown Newark this October to hear more than 70 renowned poets read, perform and discuss poetry.

Since 2010, Dodge has sought to live our values of sustainability, model leadership in how we run events, and be good neighbors through the Festival’s zero-waste initiative. This year we are, again, partnering with Clean Water Fund to use their ReThink Disposable program to reduce the amount of waste the Poetry Festival produces.

The program’s mission is simple but by no means easy — reduce the usage of single-use food packaging, plastic coffee lids, straws, plastic bottles, hot cup sleeves, napkins, plastic utensils, and other items that add up to a big problem not just for Newark but the entire state of New Jersey.

At the 2016 Dodge Poetry Festival, nearly 500 pounds of food waste was collected, more than 500 pounds of bottles and cans and mountains of paper and cardboard were recycled. In comparison, a waste audit by Clean Water Action showed 780-pounds of trash was collected during the four-day event.

We will feature water fill-up stations throughout the Festival this year, so bring your reusable water bottle, or purchase one at the Festival bookstore.

More than 75 Green Team volunteers wearing green Festival T-shirts will be posted at resource recovery stations throughout NJPAC — each with four bins for all types of recyclable and compostable items — to help assist festival-goers and ensure there is no contamination between bins.

What can you do to help?

At this year’s festival we encourage Festival attendees to:

  • Take only what you need when it comes to single-use disposables – bags, packaging, utensils, straws, napkins
  • Use a refillable cup or water bottle
  • Bring your trash, recyclables, compostables and returnable food baskets to the Rethink Disposable stations located in the plaza and lobby of NJPAC. The Green Team will be there to help you sort it into to the correct collection bin. Behind the scenes, the volunteers will inspect, weigh and prepare all collected materials for pick-up and reuse, and answer any questions the public has about the effort

To further reduce the environmental impact this festival has, we are encouraging festival goers to take public transportation and carpool with one another. Also, we’re printing less paper programs and using a phone based app. And, you won’t find a plastic bag at the book store.

Why is this important?

When the Poetry Festival made the move from Waterloo Village to Newark in 2010, Dodge saw an opportunity to live our values of sustainability, experiment with how we run events differently so others might learn from our experience, and build on the movement to rethink disposables through Festival’s zero-waste initiative.

We knew that the Poetry Festival had the possibility of having a big impact on the City of Newark, both positive and negative. You may not know that much of New Jersey’s trash ends up in Newark – at a waste transfer station and an incinerator that burns the trash, making our air and water less healthy. We we think it’s important we all know this and recognize that every little thing we do makes a big difference in changing this and making Newark a healthier place for all of us to live, work, and visit.

This is a good time to be talking about sustainability in Newark since the city’s Office of Sustainability Action Plan set a goal of recycling 50% of its waste by 2020, and to encourage residents, institutions and businesses to take ownership of their city as a trash-free place.

“We’re trying to create a healthy, vibrant Newark in a way that engages people that live in the City rather than having to bring in solutions from the outside,” Amy Goldmsith, Clean Water Action State Director said. “There is plenty of talent, resources and ingenuity here and we’d like to see that shape Newark.”

You can learn more about Clean Water Fund’s Rethink Disposable program and how to adopt some of these actions for your next event at

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