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Festivals, Conferences, Events

Composting – the biggest waste shift we can make away from waste,
toward resource creation

In working with an event greener, you will be able to compost all your food scraps, including meat, bones and dairy. For composting organic waste, you must contact Sonoma Compost or an authorized events greening company, like Green Mary.  Loads of organic waste will likely not be accepted at Sonoma Compost without pre-arrangement and verification that loads are pure compostable waste, not contaminated.

This is a special events relationship with Sonoma Compost, not to be practiced at home or businesses without pre-approval.  The one category where we are able to make significant shifts toward increasing composting is in paper products – plates, bowls and hot cups. The only products accepted in compost in these categories are paper without waxy coating.  You must be very careful in selecting these products, as others will be rejected or, if missed, contaminate the soil at our organic facility. An authorized sorting process must be in place to ensure compliance.  Dixie plates, for example, have a waxy coating.  The best choice are called “bagasse” and are made of sugar-cane trimmings and do not have any coating. They are still very thick and sturdy, available for plates, bowls and hot cups.  Hot cups described as “earth friendly” but looking shiny on the inside have a plant-based waxy coating and are not acceptable  at Sonoma Compost.

Whether at home, at the coffee shop or buying for a special event, please know that simply because it is labeled “Green” or “Compostable” does NOT mean it is accepted at all compost facilities, certainly not at our very special Sonoma Compost, where they produce soil for growing food. All other facilities that receive miscellaneous compostable products such as bioplastics or waxy coated products are producing soil for landscaping purposes- valuable, yes; food-quality, no.

Purchasing compostable cups and utensils for events or restaurants is a choice based on personal ethics and business goals, but we want to be paying attention to what customers are doing with these wares when leaving the establishments.  When they go into curbside green bins and end up at Sonoma Compost, there are workers on the other end who must hand pick these out, or too often, then end up in the soil that we are making for very special purposes, growing our food at home, school gardens, and around the county.


Biodegradable plastics are not accepted at Sonoma Compost, our one authorized compost facility, nor do they readily break down in backyard compost systems. Refer to the accompanying list for best choices in each category, whether compostable or recyclable.

If you do purchase biodegradable plastics for use in other counties, where events are able to receive and actually compost these plastic wares, these items MUST contain the stamp of “Compostable” on them, NOT “Biodegradable” or “Bioplastic” or any other stamp.  The number on the bottom of the cup or container will be a “7” in the triangle, and oftentimes the acceptable wares will have a green band around them. They must meet ASTM 6400 standards and can be found on approved product lists at the website for the Biodegradable Plastics Industry –

Great choices and practices

  • Finger foods, wraps, chop sticks, large shared platters with napkins and toothpicks
  • Bulk dispensing containers for liquids rather than individual plastic bottles
  • Bulk condiment dispensers Water refill stations are a wonderful inclusion as we move away from plastic water bottles that are toxic in the creation, storage and consumption and environmentally costly in the shipping and recycling or landfilling.  Many options are available for advancing reuse over recycling, local resources over shipping
  • Recycling all clean plastic film – ice bags, the plastic sheets the linens come in. Tons of plastic film goes into events, but only goes out in the trash.  It can be kept clean, separate and recycled at North Bay Corporation.
  • Reusable wares!!!  There are several food booths who provide real dishware and have dishwashing stations set up to take back the plates, bowls, cups and utensils for washing. It is almost a break-even deal when compared to buying the paper products and utensils, and New Asia Restaurant and Get Fried Rice are wildly popular at festivals for their environmental commitment.

Bad practices, items to be diverted and avoided

  • Polystyrene is banned on all county property in Sonoma County and is being discussed for a county-wide ban altogether.
  • Individual creamers and condiment packets – garbage
  • Plastic utensils, whether bioplastic or petroleum-based plastic, are garbage at Sonoma County events. If you can shift to other products and away from plastic cutlery, great.
  • Hazardous waste items and materials include sterno containers, propane and white gas canisters, and batteries.  These must be kept out of or pulled from the trash and be disposed of properly at the Household Hazardous Waste facility.

Where to get food service supplies

The following list of distributors and stores selling food service products is not an endorsement, nor is it comprehensive. It is a list of providers that have proved useful and cost-effective in purchasing wares for Sonoma County events.

Note - Cash and Carry and Kurlander have polystyrene and we are trying to get them to stop carrying it in advance of the anticipated county-wide ban.

Cash and Carry - 585 Barham Road, Santa Rosa, CA  707-543-5844 – easy in and out, great hours and location, smaller units and cases, too

Kurlander and Son -  3645 N. Laughlin Road, Santa Rosa, CA  707-528-3700 – warehouse-style, cases only, great pricing, bringing in more and more eco-friendly wares.  Opens early, closes early

Moresco Packaging – 1120 Holm Road, Petaluma, CA  707-773-2500 – must call ahead to place order, not very convenient, but great pricing. Compostable plastics for out of county application. Better in delivery situations.

World Centric – order only for shipment, good pricing, great customer service, full line of greenest products available.  The local stores listed above have better pricing for paper products. 650-283-3797



  • We have two primary hauling companies in the county- North Bay Corporation and Industrial Carting. This is where you order dumpsters and containers from and they can fill you in on recycling guidelines.
  • Sonoma County’s on-line recycling guide has the news on everything recyclable and where it goes, how it’s done – www.RecycleNow.Org


Maker Faire Green Team

Maker Faire Green Team, San Mateo County Fairgrounds, 2009. having big fun making a big difference!

The Green Team extends its loving eco-tentacles into nearly every major Bay Area event each season, training while we sort "trash," gently modeling even as we party. Training of year-round personnel integrates the same waste-reduction program and operate as a cohesive crew with common, measurable goals and recognition.

Whenever possible, we use monitors at the EcoStations to educate folks about what goes where. We can help recruit volunteers, train them and leave everyone a little wiser and the planet a lot happier.


Siging on with our event waste diversion wonder-network gains events access to extensive Green Mary resources and interaction with area ecological organizations, expands the resource sharing opportunities.  Increased sponsorship, grant and fund-raising opportunities as your organization or event raises itself above minimal event production commitments, to move toward a responsible and visionary event production. The public notices these changes and such transformation motivates the public and contributes to immense good will - we see and feel it every day.

Whatever the purpose for your gathering,  yours can easily lighten its environmental footprint as it expands its audience base and joins the ever-growing green network of events.  Call for a free quote and to start exploring the green possibiliities.