As ArtPrize rolls into its eighth year this fall, our team was dedicated to making progressive strides when it came to planning this year’s event. The entire team of employees and volunteers at ArtPrize are astounded at the rising popularity and increasing attendance rate every year—with over 400,000 attendees in 2015, we’re expecting even more over the next several weeks.

We love how accessible and well-loved ArtPrize is for the Grand Rapids community and beyond; however, this does pose a question about the impact that this event has in our city over the course of 19 days—especially when it comes to sustainability.

Making Sustainability a Priority

Over the last few years that ArtPrize has seen a substantial increase in attendance, it became apparent that the current system in place for waste disposal, recycling, and composting needed some improvements. As event planners in the city, we recognize and accept our responsibility to not only reduce the amount of trash produced during ArtPrize, but to also educate our attendees about how to properly dispose of unneeded materials and the importance of doing so.

After failing to see the desired results with previous waste disposal and recycling programs during ArtPrize, we decided it was time to figure out a long-term solution that would have a positive impact not only on ArtPrize, but on our community as a whole. In order to accomplish this, we decided to pursue a partnership with two of the most influential municipalities in the area, the City of Grand Rapids and Kent County. With both entities on board, we’ve worked hard to create a solution together, one that’s easy to understand and accessible to all event attendees—children and adults, both English-speaking and non-English speaking.

Introducing the S.O.R.T. Program

After weeks of collaboration and planning, stakeholders of ArtPrize, the Wege Foundation, the City of Grand Rapids, Kent County, West Michigan Environmental Action Coalition (WMEAC), and The Image Shoppe (a local brand marketing agency) created a simple, yet effective program for properly sorting compost (organic material), recycling, and trash during ArtPrize. The S.O.R.T. program (Separate Organic, Trash, and Recycling) is a simple program that uses the concept of a stoplight to demonstrate the caution one should take when “sorting” out unneeded materials: Green for compost and organic materials, Yellow for recycling, and Red for landfill waste.

S.O.R.T. it out at SORTing Stations

ArtPrize attendees will be able to S.O.R.T. their items at designated SORTing Stations in brightly colored green, yellow, and red bins, complete with simplified lists of what materials belong in which bin—both in English and Spanish. There will also be educational games and plenty of ArtPrize and WMEAC volunteers to help attendees properly S.O.R.T. their items.

There will be six designated SORTing Stations during ArtPrize: two at Calder Plaza, two at Rosa Park’s Circle, and two at ArtPrize headquarters (HUB/HQ). These locations were chosen based on the locations of food trucks during ArtPrize, all of which are required to use 100% compostable materials, including plates, napkins, cutlery, cups, and more. The City will be picking up all recycling and compost from the SORTing stations.

Testing and Improving the S.O.R.T. Program

The SORTing stations were first tested during this summer’s Grand Jazz Fest and Hispanic Festival. Our collaborative team will make adjustments to the program based on feedback we received from these two events leading up to ArtPrize. We hope to see positive feedback and progress toward reducing our waste from the implementation of SORTing Stations during ArtPrize Eight, and hope that in the future the city can adopt this simple and accessible concept to other public spaces, including citywide events, parks, schools, company lobbies, airports, and beyond.

Any Questions?

If you have questions or comments regarding the S.O.R.T. program, please contact Amelea Pegman, ArtPrize Managing Director, at amelea@artprize.org.

By Amelea Pegman on