This year, TMY sustainability efforts resulted in keeping approximately 14,000 pounds of material out of Tucson’s landfills, sending about 6,000 pounds of plastic bottles, cardboard, and aluminum cans to the recycling center and 8,000 pounds of food scraps and paper to San Xavier Co-op Farm where Compost Cats will turn it into compost for our crops and landscape. In efforts to building a strong Festival sustainability program, TMY owes much to Chester F. Phillips, TMY sustainability coordinator and project supervisor of the UA Compost Cats. Chet and his team helped design a plan that encouraged best practices and ensured a minimal impact on the environment during TMY. He provides BorderLore with some of his Festival sustainability field notes:
On how sustainability connects to folklife
I love Tucson Meet Yourself because it showcases and celebrates the diverse traditions of living, thinking, and eating that exist in our community. It creates a space that values them all equally. And in this place of celebrating both our shared and different cultural identities, I think it is appropriate to point out that there are too many people in our community, from multiple cultural traditions, who lack access to enough healthy food. In addition, TMY is a profound way of saying that we value the many ways of life in our shared place, and another way of valuing our shared place is to reduce waste and transform most of it into something (like compost or recycled goods) we can reinvest back into our community.
On the sustainability coordinator’s role in promoting folklife
I think that understanding the cultural traditions people come from is essential if we ever want to change any behavioral patterns, to change patterns of waste for instance. We have to meet people where they are, culturally speaking, not where we might have them be, and we have to demonstrate that we value and respect where people are coming from and we are not lecturing them but asking that we all engage in a shared endeavor.
On personal observations, sustainability in action at TMY
My favorite anecdote actually comes from the part of the festival in which I was personally the most stressed. For whatever reasons, we had a number of volunteer no-shows for the Saturday afternoon shift. This left us understaffed and unable to put a volunteer at every green station to help people sort waste into the appropriate containers. So I was staffing one station and looking down the lane at another that had no volunteer. I watched as a young mother came up to the unstaffed station with two children, both under 10 years old. She stopped and read the signs to her children, explaining to them which items could go in each bin. This is all I could hope for, a perfect example of how the importance of reducing what we waste gets passed from one generation to the next. I wanted to hug and thank them.
On TMY 2014 personal picks:
I run around pretty frantically during the festival and sometimes wish I had a little more time to step back and appreciate it. On Saturday evening though, as I was crossing the street between the two plazas, I ran into a friend who hadn’t been to TMY before and hasn’t lived in Tucson long. I stopped to greet him and chat for a moment, and he gestured first toward the big stage where drums where thumping and dancers whirled in brightly colored costumes and a throng of people danced along below the stage. Then he swept his arm around 360 degrees and said, “This is beautiful, Chet. When Tucson says it values its diversity, it’s not just something you say. You really mean it.”
Many, many people, both vendors and festival attendees, thanked us, the green team, for being there and doing what we do. That probably does more than anything else to hearten and motivate us.
- University of Arizona’s Students for Sustainability Compost Cats
- Compost Cats at the San Xavier Co-op Farm: