First celebrated 48 years ago this month as a singular occurrence recognizing the health of the natural environment, Earth Day (April 22) has since blossomed into a month-long global campaign around environmental protection and awareness.
This year’s theme for Earth Day is plastic pollution prevention. More than six billion tons of plastic is disposed of each year – yet less than 10 percent of that is recycled. Since plastic can take up to 1,000 years to degrade, we’re creating an environmental mess that will affect generations to come. To help raise awareness around plastic pollution, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) is conducting a month-long internal collection of plastic grocery bags for recycling. While we encourage the use of reusable bags for groceries, sometimes that isn’t an option. Plastic grocery bags cannot be recycled in standard recycling bins – they must be separated and recycled solely with other plastic bags (often collected at grocery stores).
In conjunction with the opening of Bridge Point, the Authority’s redesigned team members’ dining space, a strategy has been developed to minimize on-site daily waste from meal service. Opening the week before Earth Day, Bridge Point will only utensils, and all team members will be given a reusable cup to use for free beverages. If you forget your cup, be prepared to pay a premium for a temporary, disposable alternative.
Additionally, every Earth Day, the GWCCA partners with local stakeholders to participate in various cleanup efforts around the campus or within the adjacent neighborhoods of Vine City and English Avenue. Having worked with the City of Atlanta’s Office of Resilience, Keep Atlanta Beautiful, and the Environmental Protection Agency, team members have removed hundreds of pounds of litter, debris, and scrap tires. Last year, more than a dozen team members met at the Lindsay Street Baptist Church to clean an area feeding the Proctor Creek watershed.
And speaking of watersheds, from April 20–22, SweetWater 420 Fest will celebrate its fifth consecutive year at Centennial Olympic Park. Always held on or around Earth Day, the event was established to celebrate craft beer, music, and the environment. The festival is named for SweetWater Brewing Company’s most popular brew and both pay homage to Sweetwater Creek. Like Proctor Creek, Sweetwater Creek is a tributary of the Chattahoochee River located approximately 18 miles from downtown Atlanta.
The symbiotic partnership between SweetWater 420 Fest and the GWCCA is a result of both organizations holding stewardship as a core value and is due to the impact that the event can have on Atlanta’s primary water source.
Like the Authority’s large venues, massive events like SweetWater 420 Fest also have the distinctive ability to educate crowds of people on specific causes. Because music plays a defining role in our lives and has long affected behavior, beliefs, and society, the two organizations have collaborated on more than just this event. Since 2014, the two organizations have worked together to host cleanups, planting projects, and even the installation of a solar compacting trash container in a heavily-trafficked area of downtown Atlanta. The festival’s Planet 420 Eco-Village brings pro-environmental and social organizations face-to-face with attendees. Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, Georgia Conservancy, and Surfrider Foundation are just a few of the partners that bring messaging, workshops, and educational opportunities to life for a captive and engaged audience during the three-day festival.
Festival organizers make it easy for attendees to take alternative transportation to the event by hosting a free bike valet through the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition. They also encourage guests to take MARTA to one of the three conveniently-located stations around the park.
And, of course, waste and recycling is always a high priority for events such as this due to the high visibility and attendee interaction. The event asks the Authority’s food services team as well as vendors to supply compostable or recyclable products whenever possible; and to reduce the overall amount of waste generated, they provide reusable souvenir cups for patrons. There also is a program in place where cleanup recyclables are separated from trash in order to be diverted from landfills.
If you’re interested in learning more about SweetWater 420 Fest’s mission, you can visit www.sweetwater420fest.com/experience/sustainability/.
For more information on the Authority’s social and environmental responsibility, please see www.gwcca.org/sustainability/.
Happy Earth Day!