A decade of Zero Waste Vashon

The organization is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year.

Zero Waste Vashon (ZWV) is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year!

We invite you to join us at Dig Deep Gardens from 5 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, June 15, to celebrate our successes and rock the night away. Join us to meet with the volunteers and collaborators that make it happen. Learn about exciting plans for the future and bring your great ideas. Rumor Has It will play from 6 to 8 p.m., and Iyad’s Syrian Grill food truck will be there to provide delicious dinners.

ZWV actively works to make Vashon Island “a model waste-to-resource community.” As a non-profit and 100% volunteer-driven organization, ZWV’s goal is to inspire the Vashon Island community to “Reduce, Recycle, Reuse and Rethink.” We are dedicated to converting our island community’s waste into resources, reducing island waste going to the Cedar Hills landfill, and increasing the community’s awareness of sustainability-related issues.

You might wonder if working toward zero waste is really that much of a priority when climate change is such a huge environmental problem. The fact is, our mission is just as important as it was when we were founded back in 2014.

Many people don’t realize it, but everything we consume has a carbon footprint, from resource extraction to manufacturing, distribution, use, and disposal. Studies have shown that the production, use, and disposal of household goods and services are responsible for 60-70% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Every time we choose to consume less, reuse or repair what we have, or recycle our waste back into new products, we are helping to slow climate change and reduce human impact on the planet.

Over the past ten years, ZWV has worked on many projects to make it easier for islanders to do just that. One of our first successes was to convince our island garbage service to provide curbside recycling. At the same time, we worked with King County to begin yard waste collection at the Vashon Recycling and Transfer Station.

We continue to focus on organics (yard and food waste) because they make up nearly 30% of the waste that gets shipped off the island to Cedar Hills Landfill, where it rots and creates methane. A far better approach is to turn these organic materials into compost — a valuable product that can be used right here in island farms and gardens.

We have been working diligently with King County since 2018 to establish an on-island compost facility to handle our yard and food waste. This vision is now on the way to becoming a reality, as King County Council approved funding for the Vashon Organics Recycling facility in November 2023.

Other ways we’ve worked to help islanders reduce their “waste footprint” include our seven electronics recycling events with partner SBK ReCycle, diverting more than 50 tons of materials from the landfill; partnering with Vashon Makerspace on eighteen Fix-It Cafes since 2017; and partnering with Nadine Edelstein’s First Sunday Styrofoam recycling program that collected more than 95 tons of plastics and 5300 cubic yards of Styrofoam for recycling. This involved 8000 hours of volunteer time — thank you, volunteers!

Our “Bring Your Own Mug” campaign has encouraged a small change in habits that can have a big impact. Hopefully, you’ve had a chance to attend one of our movie nights, sponsored by Island Green Tech, or one of our many lectures or presentations at the Vashon Land Trust and VCA.

Recently, our Choose Plastic Free campaign has had some great movie screenings and meet-ups at the Land Trust to get the word out and share ideas on how to reduce plastics in our lives.

We also work with island schools to teach the younger generation about the importance of reducing waste, and award two Vashon High School scholarships each year to island graduates interested in sustainability.

An exciting new project is exploring the potential of a building materials reuse facility on Vashon. These types of materials are a significant amount of the waste shipped off-island. Much of it is still useful, and we hope to make that material available at a reasonable cost to our island neighbors.

Another new project is exploring alternatives to the single-use serveware that seems to have grown exponentially since COVID.

We’ve had a busy ten years, and we truly hope our efforts have helped you to move toward zero waste. Every little bit helps. We couldn’t have done it without the support and enthusiastic participation of our wonderful community and many hard-working volunteers!

Please come join us for some music, fun, and refreshments at Dig Deep Gardens this Saturday. We’d love to see you there!

Steve Bergman is the secretary, and Nancy O’Connor is the president of Zero Waste Vashon’s Board of Directors.