The Art of Environmental Activism

The Art of Environmental Activism

Resource wRangling at the River Spirit Music Festival

It was a picture perfect day for Music and Merriment in the park and RESOURCE wRANGLING at the 2019 Hastings-on-Hudson River Spirit Music & Arts Festival!


Our Chevy Bolt EV, packed & headed to Draper Park in Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y. to set up the Away Stations, aka Zero Waste Stations.

Zero Waste is what we strive for.
We are not there.
We humans leave a lot of waste in our wakes.
Most of us don’t give much thought to what we throw away, but some, like our team of volunteer Resource wRanglers, give great thought to what we are leaving in our wake and what to do about it.

I am overwhelmed with optimism after working with the volunteers this day. Thank you to Hannah, Sofia, Valerie, Maria, Christina, Nicole, Mark, Susan, Marcia, Cigdem, Haven and the team from the Graham School.

Thanks to MJ Wilson for helping to manage our resource wrangling, to Sean Sanders and our HoH Parks Crew and to the many festival goers that picked up any litter in their paths & brought it to the Away Station! Did you know: ’Litter Pickers’ is the namesake of the first resource wranglers group, began by
Toshi Seeger at the first Great Hudson River Revival in 1966 upon which this system is based.

Currently here in Hastings-on-Hudson we are able to separate our discards into 4 streams to capture the resource and return it to use.
1. Clean glass, metal, plastic and tabletop & juice cartons-known as commingled
2. Clean paper and cardboard.
3. Food scraps & Compostable food service items.
3. Trash


At the Meadow stage Away Station Sophia & Hannah take the first shift.

Staffing these stations is essential! Left to our own devices, people rarely put their discards into the proper streams. This is a process with rules and it does take time to do it properly.

All streams mentioned above must be clean for the recycling of it to work. Loads of recyclables that are contaminated will be sent into the trash stream, to be burned or landfilled. This is a loss of resources! (Hastings’ trash is burned in Peekskill where the heat energy is used to create electricity. The resultant ash is trucked to Connecticut to be landfilled.)

Being so awash in ‘stuff’, it is hard to remember that planetary resources are finite.

There is no planet B!

Our Resource wRanglers helped festival goers do the right thing and recycle as many resources as possible within our sanitation system. For instance, many would throw a soiled paper plat into the paper recycling bin, but paper recycling must be clean paper, so, that soiled paper plate mahy be returned to soil by
composting it. Same goes for those soiled pizza boxes!

The compostable material collected will be trucked to
Kingston to a commercial compost facility.
And while there are only 4 distinct streams of waste to manage, there are nuances, exceptions, and special cases that are important to learn about and share.


Here’s Shawn, from Hastings-on-Hudson Parks Department with Hannah & Sophia

Shawn, Forman of Hastings-on-Hudson Parks Department, is the next link in the wrangling of our resources. He and his staff; Blake, Carl, Cayden, and Kyle, will haul the sorted materials to the H-o-H Department of Public Works yard.

From there, Hastings’ Strongest, aka your garbage men, (yes, it is an all male staff), will transport all but the compostable materials to the transfer station in Yonkers. There, at the
Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), the recyclable glass, metal, plastic, cartons and paper will be further sorted, baled and sold for processing into something else made of / with glass, metal, plastic or paper.

The trash - non-recyclable, un-recyclable material - will be tipped, (that’s the industry term for depositing municipal solid waste), in a huge garage where several other municipalities also tip their trash. It is then loaded into very large trailers to be driven to Peekskill to the
Charles Point Wheelabrator incinerator, or Waste-to-Energy plant. Wheelabrator reporst that the electricity generated from this plant is used to power the incineration plant itself, as well as 63,600 households.

This is the Away Station near the Grove Stage, here staffed by Nicole
Susan, (in green top w/ sunglasses) here hugging an old friend, also assisted at the Grove Stage Away Station.

Staffing these stations can be quite the social event, catching up with old friends & making new ones. Since essentially everyone at the festival will produce something they will want to throw away, you wind up inter-acting with a lot of people! The job does require an ability and desire to talk with strangers.

Here is Valerie in action helping a contributor with his single stream of discards.

Tongs in hand Valerie will help sort each piece into the proper bin, keeping the streams clean.

Considering our disposal options and getting our discards into the best stream does take an extra moment or two. Getting resources back into use and not letting them waste by incineration is an important process in our finite world - spending an extra moment now will help ensure future generations can enjoy the planetary resources.

So next time you’re tempted to toss the aluminum can in a trash bin to be incinerated or land filled please take the time to get it into the recycling stream.

Here is our closing crew, l to r: Haven (w headlamp and black shirt), Marcia & MJ (with headlamp on right)

Above, Haven is describing to the chef from
Break Bread Not Hearts, one of the food vendors at the festival, how commingled recycling is processed at the MRF in Yonkers and why certain plastic items (bags, forks, knives, spoons, straws), are not wanted and can spoil a recycling load.

Due to our efforts in wrangling resources we diverted 10 trash bags for composting and 10 bags to recycling. And we had 12 bags of trash for incineration. This represents a 63% diversion rate.

In preparing for this festival, we asked that all vendors use either compostable or recyclable service ware and many did! Though some still chose to use styrofoam and other non-recyclable / non-compostable service ware. On the notes for next year we will work to make sure all food service ware is either recyclable or compostable.

Thanks to all of our teammates and wranglers for a great job at the 2019 River Spirit Music Festival!

Elisa Zazzera, Chief Resource wRangler
Create Communicate Celebrate
Sept 7, 2019