One of the best things a home, business, or community can do to lower their carbon footprint is to go “zero waste.” In 2015 TomKat Ranch decided to take on the new challenge of minimizing our landfill footprint by reducing consumption, reusing, recycling, and composting as much as we could from the ranch.

Through this process we’ve learned that Zero Waste goes much further than simply knowing which bin can take a plant-based plastic cup.* It is a ‘cradle to grave’ approach reviewing all the materials that come onto a property or business. Whether each item is renewable or nonrenewable, whether it is sustainably harvested, and the energy impact it takes to produce the material are just some of the questions asked when designing a customized zero waste plan.

TomKat Ranch recently hosted an event with over 1,000 attendees. Before the event, we set the ambitious goal to generate only ½ of  a regular sized garbage bag of landfill trash! Reusable mess kits, dish-washing stations, cloth towels, beverage kegs and drinking water stations kept waste to a bare minimum. Wastewater from wash stations, containing only plant- based soap, was used for land application. Behind the scenes, catering staff washed and recycled plastic meat packages, saran wrap, plastic bags, aluminum foil and trays.  All the waste that could be recycled or composted was captured and diverted to the appropriate places. Leftover landfill items included twist ties, electrical tape, mylar packaging, plastic tape, and styrofoam.

Meticulously supervising the waste stream over three days with event staff, catering, stage crews, and the operations team, TomKat Ranch achieved this exciting goal of half a bag of landfill garbage! Someday, even the twist ties, tape, and styrofoam will be a thing of the past–intentional upstream purchasing will find new ways to purchase items without these non-recyclable materials, informing suppliers that these are considerations customers make when deciding to buy a product. This purchasing pressure further enhances the global Zero Waste effort to reduce landfill volumes and needless greenhouse gas production from landfills. A big thanks goes out to Kristine Scully of Scully Environmental Consulting for guiding us through this detailed process helping TomKat continue the Zero Waste success. Email Kristine here for more information.