Play Green: Making recycling easy when it’s not

Jun 24, 2010 by

It has happened to all of us, many times in fact.

Whether we’re running, biking, camping and listening to music, or however we choose to enjoy the outdoors, at some point we’ve all come across garbage. Not just trash, but that broken bottle, or beer can, or piece of plastic whatever it used to be that has now broken our concentration on the beautiful world and caused us to think about the ugly truth. The truth is, glass, plastic, aluminum, and so much more could have easily had a second, third, or tenth life if it had just been recycled instead of being randomly tossed aside to litter our earth.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a recycling freak, by any means. I’ve turned the blind eye, more than once. If anything, I should be doing so much more. I learned to rinse the recycling first, and to use the commingled bin properly. That was easy. And I’ve learned to carpool and even be more aware of the plastics I buy. Also, easy. You can learn to become more eco-friendly every day, it’s very simple. Old dogs do learn new tricks.

I’ve played my share of disc golf in Steamboat Springs, Fort Collins, Beaver Creek and elsewhere. It’s very disappointing that nearly every round I’ve played I’ve found either bottles, cans or other recyclables and even trash in the disc golf pin. For me it can be a real buzz-kill on an otherwise beautiful afternoon outdoors. I must admit I’ve not always been perfect about separating the recycling from the trash, but it’s pretty easy to at least ‘pack-it-in, pack-it-out’? Right? Do they just assume someone more responsible will come along and do the right thing for them?

In 2007, Mark Reece was having similar thoughts. Unlike me, he took Action. He created a company called Play Green Events, dedicated to improving recycling at public events in Denver, and throughout Colorado. The idea to promote recycling was much bigger than just disc golf courses. It was only natural to spread out. Music festivals, sports tournaments, catering events, walks, runs, rides, and benefits soon were ‘greener’ thanks to Mark’s Play Green ideas. I just had to know more, from the source. I found Mark eager to help fill in the back-story.

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Which disc golf course was the first to let play green take on the recycling responsibility for their course? 

The first disc golf course to bring us on was Bird’s Nest up in West Arvada. This course is John Bird’s brainchild and also the home course to a few tournaments run by the Mile Hi Disc Golf Club. We have been a part of not only this course but two others here in Denver and are working steadily at expanding through community help and Denver Parks and Recreation assistance.

What is the largest event Play Green has ever done the recycling for?

Right now largest event we’ve been a part of is the Greek Festival here in Denver.

It is held at the Orthodox Church of Leetsdale and usually brings in around 50 thousand people for the weekend. Our first year with the festival we recycled nearly three tons in three days. A great accomplishment as well a solid testimony to the amount of waste these events bring in. We are pleased to say this year we have a new contract in the works with ‘The Festival de Italiano’ in Lakewood that should bring around 65 thousand visitors.

What are the biggest obstacles to implementing recycling?

Definitely the biggest problem is displaying signs and having well marked bins are the key. I spend a lot of time and extra cash trying to make our bins really stand out to the casual observer. Getting people to look up and become aware of how they are consuming and disposing of products and what type of wastes result can be extremely challenging. The demographics can be so diverse as well.  Even if you have an enlightened crowd, there is still going be the un-educated or un-aware. So you really need to cater to everyone.

On average, how do we Coloradoans fare against the national average in terms of our carbon footprint and how well we recycle?

I tend to believe that the majority of Coloradoans, travelers and vacationers come here and think green. The state itself has that sort of calling. So I would say pretty good or above average. On the other hand, I believe that our Park Department and other areas of State Government have a long way to go and would b below average. So there is an inconsistency that I for one would like to see shored up.

What are some ways we as individuals can be more green when we attend events?

First of all you can use the old philosophy of, “Pack In, Pack Out.” If camping, be sure to bring two trash bags; one for your trash the other for recycling. Call ahead and ask if there will be recycling, if not REQUEST IT. Carpool when possible; keep your area clean and respectful and last, try to use or buy any local or eco-friendly products available.

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Two weeks ago I had no idea what my carbon footprint was, where my nearest recycling center was, or even what I should be doing locally to make recycling more accessible in my own neighborhood. After scouring the Play Green website, and getting a few answers from Mark, I felt the wave of information overflow. I mean, here were carbon footprint calculators telling me the impact of not only my driving, but my home living, and even traveling in dollar terms. And while we all should know to separate the trash from the recycling, do we think about the next step? For example, buying recycled, local goods cuts down on things like packaging and shipping and voices demand. Also, ever think about bio-diesel or composting or sustainability? I had to get back to Mark for more…

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Your website says, “Behind the scenes ideas for greening your event” What does that mean? Tell me more.

Well, there are a ton of events out there and most go with the idea of recycling fairly easily. It is getting into the guts of the event that can also make a big difference. Talking and working with event coordinators and vendors about what type of product they will be purchasing and using is very important. If in the budget, BUY RECYCLED. That alone can be extremely effective in not only increasing the “green effect” and closing the loop, but also helping to drive that section of the economy (increasing demand and bringing down prices). Another increasingly common practice is composting. We have added this as a Play Green Events feature in 2010. This is basically taking anything that is organic in nature or used to be alive and putting it all together in a separate bin. We take it to a commercial composter where it can then be processed and put back into use at our local farms. Buying local is also huge. This cuts down on so much like shipping, packing, fuel cost and other waste all the while driving and sustaining our Colorado economy. There are a few other little tricks like biodiesel generators and outdoor solar hook ups but in a nutshell, its all about BBC, “Buy Recycled-Buy Local- Compost.”

Its great to see the “Play Green Events” name on all recycling receptacles at various events, but, how is Play Green Events educating people about recycling?

Our website is constantly changing and evolving. Within its pages there is a lot of useful information. Check the Be Green page. We hope that people will make the best of it. We also do our best to set up a sustainability table at most of our events. A place where event goers can ask questions and get answers. By providing the public with some useful information either about the area they live, or the battle around the country, on a base level, I like to think that for the most part, people like to get involved. Getting involved, believe it or not, is the best education available.

What has been the biggest learning experience for you since inception?

That’s a tough one. Following the TransRockies Run, three hundred or so foot runners through a six stage race from Buena Vista to Beaver Creek, was quite a challenge. But I think when it comes down to it, learning to work and form idea relationships with local waste/removal companies has always been tough. There needs to be a more driving economy (Dollars) for them to be more cooperative it seems. Knowing that, until some changes are made on the state and local levels here in Colorado which will increase overall demand for recycled product, we still face an uphill battle to really increase our ‘carbon footprint’ effectiveness.

What is the future for Play Green Events?

A vast, wide, expansive empire of Play Green Events domination :)   But, for now, I

suppose I’m going to have to keep it simple. Getting down to it, I’d like to operate and run Play Green the best I know how and continue to develop new partnerships and learn new ideas at recreating the way we PLAY. I hear the best way to change the world you live in is to change the small things first. So, I will stick to my beautiful backyard here in Colorado and do the best I can to help people play green yo.

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Recycling is a choice and it does require your effort. Old dogs really can learn new tricks. What new eco-friendly ‘trick’ will you commit to learn this summer? When you’re done with this magazine, will it end up in the trash, or will you recycle it to a friend’s hand? Think before you buy. Think about your impact. Think what you can do. Think Green. With our future and the benefits in mind, it becomes an easy choice. This is our beautiful state. Let’s keep it that way and remember Mark’s words, “Play Green, Yo.”

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