Do It Green: A Conversation with the Organization Keeping Events Green
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Mason Austen of Do It Green, an environmental services company that takes a sustainable approach to special events and festivals. DIG launched in 2013 after a flood hit Calgary, where they sustainably managed the waste created by the Alberta Flood Aid Concert at McMahon Stadium. Since then, DIG has broadened their horizons and worked with major event organizations all over Alberta to promote greener event planning, and since their launch have diverted more than 35 tons of waste from landfills. Here are Mason’s thoughts about Do It Green and the wisdom he has garnered in his work with them.
Since you launched DIG in 2013, you’ve focused your efforts on making events and festivals greener. How is this achieved?
It kind of grew out of a volunteer process and there ended up being a market for it. It’s through our waste stations and zero waste events; we set up various waste stations to convert as much waste as possible through composting, recycling, and creating as little landfill waste as possible. We focus on communicating with event organizers to try and bring in certain initiatives such as compostable materials and limiting outside waste to create a completely zero-waste event. We also have portable water buggies to try and cut down on bottled water - we encourage people to bring their own water bottles to refill and decrease the [impact].
How do you tailor your program to meet the needs of different events?
One example would be the certain municipalities and how their waste management differs. Even from Edmonton to Calgary, it differs substantially. Although we’re from Calgary, we still have to tailor to various municipalities and their various needs to cater to both the client and the customer.
We also cater to different-sized events and the amount of waste [they] produce. Some events enforce compostable material and no bottled water, some don't - we base it on a diversion rate. Some have a goal of a 50 percent diversion rate, some have a goal of 95 percent and up, and our approach to diversion is based on their own.
The DIG website claims that you have a goal of diverting 100 metric tonnes of waste away from the landfill by 2020. How will reducing waste generated by events like FolkFest facilitate achieving this goal?
The main goal is to reduce the amount of waste going to landfills through compostable materials. The food waste will be composted rather than going to a landfill, and the portable water buggies have reduced [the overall number] of water bottles that end up in landfills or other streams that are not recyclable. The goal is having less waste be produced, rather than just diverting it.
In what ways will DIG’s efforts inspire the next generation of environmentally-conscious individuals?
I think it’s the way of the future. We have certain legislatures and bylaws that pertain to business owners, industry, and certain sectors, but often environmental events get overlooked. You hear about certain events that leave trash all over the place year after year. It kind of falls into a grey area - that’s where we saw a market and hope that [people] realize how many events happen, when they add up, how large of a footprint they create. Often people overlook events [in favour of] other sectors that might be held more accountable. It’s kind of “out of sight, out of mind”, you attend an event and when you leave and come back the next day it’s all cleaned up. You don’t really know what goes on, where it’s all going, whereas industries and now cities are held more accountable. With the education [Do It Green] offers I think [sustainability] becomes a more attainable goal. So many people just don’t understand simple aspects of things like composting, for example - I think with the education that is offered composting can become second nature in the way that recycling is.
What inspires you in your work with Do It Green?
Environmentalism often gets overlooked - it’s not the most glamorous of industries. Waste is viewed as “out of sight, out of mind”, but the amount of work done behind the scenes and the amount of work that still can be done is tenfold. I really see the future of that and how attainable a zero-waste Alberta can be.
DIG is a two-time Emerald Awards finalist in the Small Business category.
This post was written in partnership with the Alberta Emerald Foundation