Ithaca CRT: A Community Affair

(view more articles in SOS Tompkins Weekly)

Tompkins Weekly 10-27-14

By Kat McCarthy

At one weekend-long event on the Ithaca Commons, Ithaca CRT (Compost, Recycling, & Trash) helped divert more than two-thirds of waste from the landfill, resulting in over 4 tons, or 8,000 pounds of materials being composted and recycled. Where they were once trashed, items are now made into new products and a valuable soil amendment. Ithaca CRT started over seven years ago as a volunteer organization dedicated to offering special event organizers assistance in achieving a goal of zero waste generated at their event. It’s been a great success over the years as events reduce waste and attendees learn how to recycle – all while supporting a local composting business.

The CRT collection stations are something we have come to expect at events like Ithaca Festival, Grassroots and Apple Harvest Festival but, they are only one part of what it takes to divert material from the landfill. Event planners, vendors, volunteers, and attendees all work together with assistance from Ithaca CRT to make it happen. In a short period of time, fairs and festivals generate a tremendous quantity of unwanted materials that all too often become destined for the landfill. This opportunity sparked an idea: work with vendors to ensure all materials are compostable or recyclable, and then work with attendees to share a positive message about what goes where.

The recycling, composting, and reduction efforts of CRT that benefit our community are made possible through the help of numerous volunteers and the support of the organizers of local events who host CRT stations. Participating volunteers give back to their community while developing skills as effective public educators, increasing their knowledge of sustainable waste management and achieving a sense of accomplishment for helping safeguard the life-support systems on which we all depend.

Ithaca CRT is indeed a community affair – from coordinating efforts to staffing education stations to reducing our personal waste – you have a part and it all has an impact. With many visitors coming into our community, education stations are particularly necessary. And it doesn’t just stop there. Composting and recycling are just one way to reduce our waste. Reuse, for example, saves even more resources and also plays a role at events.

One simple action that you can take is to bring your own fork, spoon, or spork on the go. It fits in your pocket, feels better to use than a disposable, and reduces your environmental impact – how can you go wrong?

For those looking to take reuse even further, consider bringing a mug or dish in which to receive your food. Single-use products are made from valuable materials: according to The Nature Conservancy, production of the 16 billion paper coffee cups used per year require over 6.5 million trees, 4 billion gallons of water, and enough energy to power nearly 54,000 homes for a year. What a shameful use of our planet’s precious resources! All that energy and time to create a cup that is used for a few hours, if that. Throughout their lifetime, reusable cups can be used over and over, reducing your daily reliance on disposables. So, the next time you step out to an event, consider bringing your own travel ware.

Another positive, impactful, and simple action is to volunteer. Each year help is needed to staff stations – please consider sharing a few hours of your time to have some fun while assisting with these efforts. Interested individuals can reach out to for more information. Over the years, we hope to see this program continue to expand with community support. In fact, this year, we’re happy to announce that Ithaca CRT also received support for volunteer coordination from the Tompkins County Solid Waste Management Division (TCSWMD).

As the festival season winds down, please remember that composting and recycling doesn’t just happen at local fairs and festivals, but at home too. Approximately 17% of the waste in New York State is made-up of food alone – as a state we’re keeping about 1.5% of that out of the waste stream, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation. In Tompkins County our diversion rate is higher, due in part to CRT Volunteers, event attendees, local businesses, and residents at home. With curbside single stream collection and the many food scraps recycling and home composting programs through TCSWMD, residents around the county can replicate these practices year round. So whether you compost at home or away, volunteer at CRT station, or bring your own spork, please remember, it is all a community effort, and we thank you for making your impact positive.

Kat is a founding member and coordinator of Ithaca CRT, a volunteer Master Composter, and chair of the NYSAR3 Organics Council. She is also the Waste Reduction and Recycling Specialist for Tompkins County.





If you liked this article, you may want to check out our complete archives of SOS Tompkins Weekly articles