Education as a Pathway to a Sustainable Market
Sustaining agricultural land, farmland, farmers and industry and supporting sustainability amongst the citizens of Mercer Island have been longtime goals of the Mercer Island Farmers Market (MIFM). They aim to educate their customers and Island residents about the impacts of their actions on the environment so that, each individual will take responsibility for their actions.
Alongside the Mercer Island School District, which has composting programs at each of its schools on the island, the MIFM has prioritized sustainability and taken strategic, proactive steps to manage the materials coming into and leaving the market each summer weekend.
Implementing composting at the market in 2008, the MIFM was way ahead of the curve; building a program long before composting at large, public venues became the norm in the Puget Sound region.
And as the market board and volunteers look towards the future, they’ve learned valuable lessons that can be implemented at any market or public venue where a compost program is being launched or is in place.
Key components of a successful composting program at the market include:
Clear signage for rolling toters
Communicating and engaging patrons in the composting efforts
Reinforcing recycling concepts being taught at neighborhood schools and in the community regarding recycling
Aiming for every citizen/patron to be a compost expert
Requiring all vendors to carry only approved, compostable food packaging items
Dedicating volunteers to build a strategy, plan and recruit quality volunteers to ensure recycling is actively managed
Understanding and be dedicated to quality control and sorting efforts that need to be done at the end of the day to send a clean, green stream of material to be composted
Understanding that adults and children alike need and benefit from continues education on recycling and composting
MIFM organizers estimate that 95% of the waste generated at the market is compostable and approximately five percent is garbage and typically includes items brought to the market from offsite.
“With the help from Cedar Grove, MIFM has diverted tons from the waste stream in one, 18-week farmers market season,” said Sandy Condiotty, board member, Mercer Island Farmers Market. “Without the service of Cedar Grove, we would have no way of transforming MIFM’s waste into a soil amendment. Cedar Grove helps our market and our community be good environmental stewards.”