TRAVERSE CITY — National Cherry Festival organizers and volunteers this year stepped up efforts to go green.
Smokers can no longer roam throughout the Open Space and puff. Festival staff and volunteers asked smokers to take their cigarettes to designated areas near the beer tent, music stage and bingo tent — a more active approach than years past.
“The Cherry Festival cleans beaches and it’s noticeable that without a doubt the number of items we pick up in parks and the beach is cigarette butts,” said National Cherry Festival Director Trevor Tkach, who added the restriction aligns with the city’s smoke-free parks policy.
The Traverse Bay Area Tobacco Coalition for 15 years pushed to rid the festival of smoke. Lisa Danto, coalition coordinator, said officials were reluctant in the past to take a stand. This year’s efforts worked well, though the festival could use better signage, she said.
The festival continued a partnership with Bay Area Recycling for Charities to offer separate bags for trash, compost and recyclables. Thirteen tons of waste was recycled from the festival by Friday morning, said Steve Rawlings, regional manager of DTE, which hosted the Green Day tent that featured do-it-yourself ways to save energy and money.
Food vendors are asked to use compostable flatware, plates and cups, Tkach said.
Festival-goer Tim Callaghan used the trash containers and said he’s glad to see organizers make an effort to reduce waste but suggested signs identifying which items can be recycled and composted.
“Sometimes you don’t know what goes in which,” he said.
Volunteer Larry Gray said that doesn’t necessarily matter because items are mechanically sorted off-site. He said festival-goers have been fairly diligent about keeping the Open Space clean.
“At the very end of the night they don’t always (use the trash bags), but we clean it up. Like after the fireworks there were so many people around,” he said.
A solar-powered hydration station from Owens Soft Water is a guinea pig to test if an option to refill water bottles reduces plastic on the beach. BPA-free bottles are offered.
“A lot of people have their own bottles and are getting away from the whole plastic polluting concept,” said Mandy Mitchell, Green Day coordinator and marketing manager for Owens Soft Water.
Ron Bunson, of Montague, toted a reusable bag with information from DTE Energy. He’s taken steps to go green with energy-efficient light bulbs and solar-powered outdoor lights.
“Next year we’re going to put in a garden and we’re already thinking about starting a compost pile,” he said.
Lucky for him, Traverse City resident Carter Schmidt, 9, owner of kitchen scrap pickup service Carter’s Compost, was on hand to answer questions. Composting is a “wee bit stinky” but has lots of benefits, Carter said.
“Composting is super organic you can reduce your waste and save landfill space, and it will help your plants grow super well,” he said.