By Tracie Bedell
Did you know that the Midwest’s largest zero-waste craft beer festival happens right here in our own backyard on August 17?
The Oak Park Micro Brew Review, which started out 12 years ago as a fundraiser for local environmental non-profit Seven Generations Ahead (SGA), has grown in popularity along with the boom in craft brewing and eating locally and sustainably. With nearly 4,000 attendees, 80+ craft brewers, and dozens of vendors, the Micro Brew Review has the potential to leave a huge mess, but SGA founder and executive director Gary Cuneen and his team have developed a formula for events with great taste and zero waste.
So how do they do it? During the event, SGA and its volunteers tackle the mess on a few fronts, including: educating attendees on best practices; ensuring vendors, attendees, and brewers are separating waste into categories (landfill, recycling, composting); and by avoiding single-use items. This lets them bring down the average waste generated by an attendee from 9.3 gallons per day to .1 gallon.
As you can see, SGA takes this commitment to zero waste seriously. Cuneen notes, “There is more acceptance and understanding now of the concept for sure, but despite a few compliance problems or less than enthusiastic participants over the years, the participants know that if they don’t comply with our zero waste guidelines (particularly around using the compostable service ware that we’ve supplied since the first festival), they won’t be invited back.”
This event’s record growth and success has piqued the interest of other organizations and event producers. As a result, SGA produced a zero-waste guide for others to implement, using the Micro Brew Review as a model.
Want to help (and get freebies)?
While SGA has the model down, the organization relies on the small army of volunteers to ensure recycling, composting, and other zero-waste efforts are followed by attendees and participants. They also rely on volunteers to staff the sustainability tent to share best practices and resources with attendees.
According to SGA office coordinator/program support Lisa Daleiden-Brugman, “Getting volunteers to help during the fest is the trickiest part. Everyone wants to attend and have fun at that point!” To encourage volunteer participation throughout the day, SGA gives volunteers (ages 21+):
● FREE entrance to the main event during non-shift hours
● Souvenir 6 ounce tasting glass
● T-shirt (that can be used for future events)
● The chance to meet new people and have fun!
Do right by the planet while having a great time drinking craft beer! This year’s event takes place on Saturday, August 17, from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. and will be held rain or shine. Ticket prices range from $45 to $90 and the event regularly sells out, so be sure to purchase tickets.