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Waste not

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“We just didn’t have any recycling options out at the festival,” said Angela Cozby, the festival’s director.

For the past six years, festival officials have worked to create a completely trash-free event.

This year, that goal will be reached. “The carbon footprint at [the Festival of the Arts] is pretty large and negative, so we knew we had to do something,” Cozby said. “We also knew it would be a battle because we knew a lot of Oklahomans were not educated on recycling and composting.”

This year, the annual downtown festival — which celebrates its 47th year — will offer compost and recycle bins throughout the grounds, and every food vendor is required to use compostable materials.

“Six years ago, I started telling vendors we were going to be doing this,” Cozby said. “It is finally here.”

The Festival of the Arts runs April 22 through 27 in downtown Oklahoma City. As one of the largest festivals in the state, hundreds of nationwide artists, local food vendors and performing artists will be featured. Organizers estimate about 750,000 visitors will attend this year’s six-day event.

The sustainability effort will require dozens of volunteers to help sort recyclable and compostable material.

“There will be a sorting process that happens behind the scenes,” said T.O. Bowman, interim director at the Oklahoma City Office of Sustainability. “Volunteers will also be on hand to help guide people to composting bins and help them know where to put their trash.”

Bowman’s office has worked with festival organizers in an effort to launch the sustainability initiative at the festival. A fundraising effort, in connection with Continental Resources, helped raise $8,700 for the recycle and compost bins, Bowman said.

“Recyclable materials will be collected in containers throughout the grounds [and] delivered to a screened sorting site near Stage Center, where they will be prepared for transport,” Bowman said. “Recyclables will be picked up in a roll-off container by Oklahoma Environmental Management Authority and delivered to Batliner Recycling.”

Bowman said Styrofoam coffee cups also will be taken to a nearby Goodwill Industries location.

Besides the environmental impact, the festival will divert some downtown traffic, as Hudson Street is closed until the festival is over. Unlike prior years, construction from Project 180 downtown improvement projects should not be an issue.

“The majority of the work for Project 180 has already taken place in those areas near the festival,” said Josh Ryan, the city’s special event permit coordinator.

Ryan said Walker Avenue would also be open during the festival. It had previously been closed for construction.

“The traffic department is very mindful of this event,” Ryan said.

Putting on such a large event always requires a lot of cooperation, and this year’s push to be more environmentally friendly took an even larger buy-in from festival participants.

“The vendors were really responsive to this sustainability push, and it felt like a really good partnership,” said Ward 6 Councilwoman Meg Salyer. (Her ward hosts the festival.) “It is a little bit more expensive ... but to get everybody to participate at this high level is really a compliment to the organizers.”

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