In celebration of America Recycles Day, the Utah Recycling Alliance (URA) gathered Thursday night to host its 4th annual Zero Waste Awards. Since beer, movies and ecological responsibility are my three favorite things, the whole night was essentially my inner activist’s wet dream. The evening was simple in its composition, a small meet and greet in the Brewvies common area, followed by a brief raffle, the awards ceremony and a screening of the movie Dive.
The first award for the evening was the Zero Waste or PDC (Pretty Darn Close). As the name implies the award is given to that business or organization that successfully has diverted a minimum of 90 percent of their waste. This year, Laziz Foods was presented with the Zero Waste Award. Since extensive documentation is required for each of the awards, the URA was able to share the accomplishments for each business and organization that qualified them. Laziz Foods has successfully diverted 230 pounds of waste from the landfill each week, successfully obtaining a 46:6 ratio of recycling to garbage. In addition to managing their own environmental impact, they also provide bulk packaging to their vendors that can be reused and even returned to help aid in the waste management of those restaurants and cafes as well. What can’t be forgotten for Laziz Foods, of course, is their killer variety of Middle Eastern spreads!
The Zero to Zero award is presented to the business or organization that has transformed its waste strategy in the last year. Specifically, having originally started with no recycling plan in place whatsoever. Sugarhouse Coffee walked home with the Zero to Zero award, only further solidifying them as one of my personal favorite coffee hotspots in Salt Lake. Changes in the last 18 months include composting 200 lbs. of coffee and 500 lbs. of produce each week, offering reusable containers for client deliveries, utilizing a reusable milk delivery service and providing cash incentives to its customers to avoid disposables. Additionally, they have increased their frequency of recycling collection, added recycling containers and have begun recycling glass.
The final award for the evening was the Innovative Path to Zero. Presented to the organization that is not only moving towards zero waste, but has also “taken an innovative approach in repurposing materials.” This year the awardee was Clarks Auto, whose own personal strategy on waste is “We prefer not to handle it at all.” Clark Auto’s accomplishments are truly “from the ground up,” starting with the recycling of two 55-gallon drums worth of plastic and cardboard daily, to a 3.5 kW solar system on the facility roof. Their customer relations include educating and informing their customers on recycling and reduction strategies and providing a plug-in hybrid as a service shuttle. Clarks Auto reuse battery parts through a vendor, clean-burn waste oil for heat and collect, refine and reuse motor oil. An auto shop proving to stand by their claim of being “ your green garage—” color me impressed.
Lastly, an Honorable Mention was given to Real Food Rising, a community farming program that has harvested 4,000 lbs. of produce from homeowners’ fruit trees. The efforts of Real Food Rising has helped to divert thousands of pounds of food waste through their programs, donating 70 percent of their collected fruit.
After the awards were presented and a raffle held, there was a showing of Dive, a documentary on food waste and dumpster diving culture in America. In years to come, I can easily predict my mother will claim that my first attendance at the Zero Waste Awards in 2014 marked the start of my fall into delinquency. The result of me watching a movie that reveals half of all Americans’ food is thrown away, is me crawling through Whole Foods dumpsters the next night, and spending the following weekend concocting a dumpster-diving field kit.