Fall festivals take place throughout September, October, and November. Cooler weather invites people to get out of their air-conditioned homes and out enjoying fall crops like apples and pumpkins. Nods to traditional German Oktoberfests also take place across the country as people move from lighter ales and lagers to heavier, bready Bavarian, Weiss, and other German beers. 

If you look at the attendance of some of these events, the Duluth Fall Festival in Georgia draws around 100,000 people. The Bayfield Apple Festival in Wisconsin draws around 60,000 people. November’s Louisiana Pecan Festival draws around 75,000. If you think of each state’s variety of fall festivals and the number of attendees, it’s not hard to imagine how much trash and recycling is generated.

What Can Organizers Do?

While it’s hard to pinpoint exact numbers, Coachella’s music festival is estimated to have generated 107 tons of solid waste each day it runs. Only 20% of it is estimated to have been properly recycled.

The organizers realize it’s a problem and are working on ways to find effective solutions, such as encouraging attendees to bring a non-metal reusable water bottle and providing multiple bins for food and paper composting, recycling containers, and trash bins with clear signage as to what goes where.

Follow their lead and start creating greener practices at your fall festival. Environmentally friendly practices and products should be at the top of a festival planner’s mind. Here are some tips you can use.

Use Compostable Utensils, Plates, and Containers

Instead of using foil, Styrofoam, or plastic food containers and packaging, opt for compostable options. Foam plates may be affordable, but natural plant fiber plates are much better for the environment and aren’t as expensive as you might think.

Eco-friendly forks, spoons, and knives made from potato starch or bamboo are durable and break down in compost piles. Choose unbleached napkins that can be composted. Avoid the use of straws, but if they’re necessary, get the straws made from starch.

Focus on Foods That Are Compostable

When people don’t eat all of their meals, the rest of those items end up in the trash. You could make sure vendors offer smaller portions or two different size options at reasonable price points. Push vendors to offer vegetarian or vegan menus with foods that can be easily composted and are better for the environment.

Create clearly labeled bins for compostable foods. Encourage attendees to use those containers. If your area doesn’t have mandatory food composting, talk to area farmers, as some will take non-meat food scraps for their poultry, cows, and pigs. Get a list of places that will take them, and see if any are willing to pick it up.

Encourage Water Bottles and Have Refill Stations

Encourage attendees to bring a refillable water bottle and have refill stations available throughout the festival. If you have the budget, present each attendee with a refillable water bottle complete with the event’s name, date, and logo on it. It’s a bit of swag that they can reuse throughout the festival and again at home and work.

Don’t Allow the Use of Plastic Shopping Bags

Do you have vendors at your festival? In addition to reusable water bottles, ask attendees to bring reusable shopping bags to carry the items they purchase. Again, you could include them as an entry gift. 

Have Clearly Labeled Trash and Recycling

Set up stations near food vendors and other areas where trash is more likely to accumulate. You want to make sure the signage is very clear about what goes where. If you can, have workers stationed in those areas to help answer questions or catch anything that attendees drop on the ground.

Offer Free Shuttles

Finally, offer shuttles from specific points. If you have a shuttle running from a ferry to the festival, people can leave their cars in a general parking lot and ride the ferry as a walk-on passenger. That’s several cars that aren’t driving that distance. Do the same from airports, train stations, or bus depots.

What Can Attendees Do?

You’re planning to attend a fall festival. What can you do to help the environment? There are several ways to help out.

Bring a Backpack and Reusable Water Bottle

If you plan to purchase goods at the festival, bring a backpack or reusable bag to carry them in. Don’t ask the vendor for a plastic or paper bag, which just adds more trash and recyclables to the waste and recycling stream. Reuse bags as much as you can

Have refillable water bottles for everyone in your party. Instead of buying bottled water, iced tea, fruit juice, or soda, refill a water bottle. If you worry about the water quality at sinks at the festival, a refillable bottle with a built-in filter system ensures the water you drink is free of contaminants.

Don’t Buy More Than You Can Eat

Food waste at festivals is often astounding. Not only does it fill up trash containers quickly, but it draws pests like seagulls, raccoons, rats, mice, etc. If you eat everything you purchase, you won’t be adding to the food waste.

If you do have leftovers, you may not be able to safely carry them home without having a cooler and ice. See if the festival has food composting bins before you trash it.

At the same time, carefully choose what you eat. If it doesn’t require a paper plate or cutlery, you help eliminate some of the trash that’s generated at the fall festival.

Use a Carpool

Ride with as many other people as you can. Instead of meeting your family members there, you could ride together and lower the emissions produced on the ride to the festival grounds. If the festival offers a free shuttle, take advantage of it.

Take Out What You Bring In

If there are items you carry into the fall festival, such as snack bags, water and drink bottles, etc., make sure you carry them back out with you. If you can find the appropriate recycling bin, use it and make sure it’s secured in the bin and not at risk of blowing away if it’s windy. If you don’t see bins or worry about the wind blowing things around, put them in your bag and recycle things at home.

Are you unsure what is recyclable and what isn’t? Recycle Nation can help. We have a comprehensive recycling guide for your area. Enter your ZIP Code and pull up the nearest recycling facilities for each item you need to recycle. When you take the time to research what is and isn’t recyclable, you help keep unnecessary items from going to the landfill.