The Downtown Santa Cruz Farmers’ Market generates its fair share of trash. Not too long ago, on a typical summer day at the downtown market, we would throw out about 500 gallons worth of garbage bags destined for the landfill, loaded with food scraps, plastic water bottles, to-go coffee cups, paper plates, soda cans, packaging and other discarded items.
In 2008, SCCFM started its Waste Smart Program, originally called the Zero Waste Project, in partnership with Ecology Action and the County of Santa Cruz.
The goal was to design an effective recycling and composting program that would be able to accept all the food scrap, veggie waste and food vendors cups, plates, straws and utensils. The composting program is exclusive to all our markets and utilizes a facility outside the City of Santa Cruz that has the capacity to accept a large range of products. Typical “curb side” compost services do not typically handle the variety of things we can.The core component of our program is a requirement that all vendors who sell prepared food in the market use compostable / non-plastic serving products. That means all cutlery, cups, straws and plates have to be compostable. We did an extensive trash audit to identify all the products that are typically tossed in our cans. From this information we designed the template for our Waste Stations.
Market Waste Stations
The Waste Station is a critical part of the system. Each station has a banner that is split up into three sections representing composting, recycling and trash items found in the market. Below the sections are the corresponding bins, in which these items belong. SCCFM hauls all the compost bins to a single service site weekly. This program has created a significant reduction in the amount of plastic being used in our markets in addition to a huge reduction in our impact on the local landfill.
What Can You Do?
The most effective way to reduce waste starts with the consumer. You can do your part by following some simple steps when shopping at the market. Review our list below and make a pledge to shop with a smaller footprint.
Bring Your Own Bags: Totes, baskets, bike panniers, rolling carts and backpacks all make shopping convenient. At the Downtown market you can leave your bags with our Veggie Valet (located at the information booth) while you retrieve your car or continue shopping.
Bring and Reuse Your Own Produce Bags: Reusable plastic, bio, cloth and mesh bags are great for transporting home greens, fruits and vegetables. Some items like potatoes, onions and oranges don’t need a bag, and can be thrown right into your tote. Plastic and bio bags can be washed with soap and water, hung to dry and reused several times before becoming waste. Bringing your own bags also help vendors save money on buying new bags.
Bring Your Own Containers: A plastic yogurt pint container perfectly fits a basket of strawberries. Plastic, glass, and metal containers are also great for bringing delicate items like berries, stone fruits, cherry tomatoes etc.
Bring Your Own Plates, Utensils, and Cups: If you plan to enjoy a meal from one of the prepared food vendors at the market bring your own plates, utensils, and cups. Bringing your own helps vendors save money on biodegradable cutlery and helps reduce market waste. This is one of the easiest and most powerful changes you can make!
Make a Market Kit: Keep all of these items in one place, closet, trunk, or by the front door, so it is ready and easy to grab when you are off to market.
Ride Your Bike to Market: Riding your bike is great way to save money on gas, help the environment, and it’s a fun way to get some exercise. SCCFM offers free bike valet parking at the Downtown market!
Look for Sellers Who Make Zero-Waste Shopping Easy: Find out if packaging can be returned for reuse or credit or ask if packaging should be composted or recycled after use (berry baskets, egg cartons, jam and honey jars, etc.). Look for stands who offer minimal or reusable packaging. Thank and acknowledge sellers for their sustainable practices.