East End Market (EEM) is one of Orlando’s poster-children for sustainability, where people go to support local independent businesses and their products. It’s one of my favorite hangouts, and frequently has pop-ups featuring local artists and artisanal delicacies that are on the cutting edge of what’s hip. When given the choice to select a location to perform a waste audit, I was thrilled to be given the privilege to analyze EEM’s waste stream. In partnership with Orlando’s other waste consultancy, ecoPreserve, and Ideas For Us, I led the waste audit that followed a presentation by Jessica Wright and myself at the Orlando Hive Meeting. EEM owner, John Rife, had been particularly receptive to reducing the building’s waste from the beginning, and allowed us to take up four parking spots during the Sunday morning rush to conduct the data collection portion of the audit.
It’s true that many entrepreneurs and organizations are interested in reducing their waste footprint in Orlando, but few have the hardware or expertise to do so. That’s where I see myself being of assistance, and hope to extend outward to other key waste generators within Central Florida in the future.
Every audit requires up-front time, for planning and coordination, to assure the fieldwork will go smoothly. Since the sorting activity was set to take place March 31st at 8am, it was essential to assure that there would be garbage, recycling, and compost in the dumpsters when we arrived. After contacting EEM’s operations manager, I received their collection schedule and noticed that Sunday was the optimal day to do the sort. Garbage was collected by their hauler Saturday morning (24-hours in advance), and recycling two days in advance. This assured at least a one-day accumulation period leading up to the audit, to get a representative look at EEM’s waste generation.
After the gathering of equipment, and working out the remaining kinks, we were ready for game time. It was outstanding to meet the waste warriors who volunteered their time, carving out early Sunday morning to sort garbage/recycling with me. Volunteers came from University of Central Florida’s Sustainability Action Committee, Ideas For Us, ecoPreserve, and some were just very passionate individuals who weren’t in the sustainability field. Regardless of who I asked, they weren’t afraid to get in the dumpster to pull bags out, or separate the contents into their appropriate categories with their hands.
After the quantitative data collection portion of the audit, we toured the market to collect qualitative observations via a waste assessment. What were businesses current practices? How were items that were ending in the dumpster being generated on the ground? Were plastic utensils or straws being offered to patrons by default, or were they only available on request? As customers were forming lines to get their morning fix of coffee and donuts, and the popular restaurant, Domu, was preparing for the lunch rush, bin placements caught our eye as we walked around the courtyard. It’s recommended that garbage and recycling always remain side by side with clear signage at eye-level indicating which items belong where. People are all about their convenience, so if they have to walk to the recycling bin, most won’t bother.
By the end of the morning, Jessica and I had plenty of material to put together a professional mini report aimed at helping East End Market improve their waste handling practices. It is my objective to demonstrate to organizations large and small that they can benefit both the environment and their pocket books with a critical look at what their currently doing. The status quo isn’t working, so we need the courage, like East End Market’s leadership, to take a deep dive into their waste.