Sarah Gaines

Sarah Gaines

Project: Sustainability Initiatives at the Folklife Festival Part 2

School: University of Toronto

Major: Architectural Design & Environmental Geography

I am thrilled to be a returning OFMR intern! My decision to return for a second summer with OFMR and CFCH (Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage) was driven by passion for the project that I worked on last year. For the first half of the summer, I coordinated the 2015 Folklife festival’s sustainability initiatives. The annual 10-day festival, located on the National Mall, features artisans, performers, cooks and craftspeople who represent their culture. This year’s program was Peru: Pachamama, meaning “Mother Earth.” In recent years, the festival has put effort into reducing its environmental footprint and, with help from OFMR, has developed the most successful recycling and composting program ever on the National Mall. This program takes a lot of planning, logistical coordination, and management. I guided the food vendors in purchasing compostable serving ware and trained the kitchen staff to correctly sort their waste in the back of house. I worked hard to recruit and train a fleet of dedicated volunteers to man our “resource recovery” stations where waste from festival visitors was collected and sorted. I planned the logistics for the compost and recycling pick-up, and carried out the day-to-day waste diversion operations during the festival. All this hard work paid off, and I am proud to say that by recycling and composting, we diverted 93% of all festival waste from the landfill for a second year running! More importantly, we educated thousands of visitors about sustainability and waste diversion.

Post-festival, my efforts will be directed to publishing a Smithsonian Guide to Green Special Events, which will educate interested organizations, institutions, festivals, and individuals on how to minimize an event’s environmental footprint, using the Folklife festival as a case study. I look forward to sharing my knowledge and experience with a wide audience to help promote sustainable practices.