By Allison Nicole Shultes
Sons of Benjamin West, a support group of the Philadelphia Union and amateur soccer leagues in the area, and spinoff of The Sons of Ben (Franklin) in Philadelphia, boosted more than just soccer this season. Their newly adopted waste-free tailgating initiative, spearheaded by member Billy Hodges, cut their opening game tailgate’s garbage output at PPL Park in Chester from seven or eight bags to less than one. At an event attracting roughly 150 community members, this impressive cut in trash is a victory for greener partying.
Scott Richardson of Occasionally Yours, who catered the tailgate, was essential to its success. Richardson first began receiving requests for reduced-waste parties ten years ago. He worked with Hodges and other organizers to plan a menu requiring minimum utensils and dishware. Featuring an assortment of finger foods, the options allowed partygoers to leave much of their pre-packed BYOB untouched.
By serving beverages from pitchers and dispensers, the SOBw’s reduced the significant amount of waste generated by bottles and cans at large group functions. Giving their environmental mission a spirited twist, they ordered 150 reusable plastic cups monogrammed with the Sons of Benjamin West logo. Tailgaters had the option of bringing theirs home for reuse or sending them home with Hodges. Their popularity, while evident at the event, proudly reasserted itself over spring break this year: family pictures at destinations from Disney World to the Grand Canyon featured the neon yellow cups.
According to Hodges, the most difficult part of transforming a regular tailgate into an environmentally conscious event is the planning. “It’s all about thinking things through beforehand.” One aspect he hopes to improve upon in the future is the labeling of the waste stations; after the event, he re-sorted the recyclables and trash, a chore that could have been avoided with clearer labeling.
With the approach of the Fourth of July, aFewSteps.org has developed a waste-free block party challenge. A flier will be distributed to anyone picking up a block party permit and via email, highlighting a few of Hodges’ tips. By implementing BYOB, avoiding individually packaged items, being wary of potluck packaging that can’t be recycled, clearly labeling trash and recycling bins, and cutting back on disposable plastic decorations, such as tablecloths and centerpieces, waste can be reduced in leaps and bounds.
When asked about his greener catering, Richardson noted that environmental consciousness is not all or nothing. “You have to be realistic about your event,” he said. “You have to make sure what you’re doing is feasible, and in the end, if you reduce waste by 10%, that’s still better than not doing anything at all.”
Alli Shultes is a rising sophomore at Swarthmore College and an intern at aFewSteps.org. She plans to major in English Literature and hopes to enter the field of journalism.