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Issues Of The Environment: A2 Summer Festival Sets 2020 Zero-Waste Goal

James Carter

2019 marks year two of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s “Festival Footprint Initiative.”  Initially, the plan was to get to a 90% waste diversion rate in 3-5 years.  Now, the plan is being accelerated.  James Carter, the festival's programming and operations manager, joins WEMU’s David Fair for a conversation on environmental stewardship through the course of a three-week long event in this week's "Issues of the Environment." 


  • The Ann Arbor Summer Festival (A2SF) begins on June 14th.  The event has made a monumental commitment to environmental responsibility, both by reducing the carbon footprint of the festival, and by using the entire festival experience as a platform for education about the impact that each on of us has on planet.
  • The A2SF has copartnered with Toyota to pair the festival with environmental partners to stimulate social impact.  Together, the festival and Toyota launched the “Festival Footprint Initiative.” beginning in 2018.  The program aims to make the three-and-a-half week long A2SF, attended by 80,000, a zero-waste event.  This is the second year of a 3-5 year plan to make the entire event zero-waste.
  • In addition, the overarching festival theme is outreach to the community, aimed at education and raising awareness about the waste stream (how we contribute, what we can do to cut down our own contributions to the stream, the ultimate downstream environmental impacts of our purchasing behavior and waste processing behaviors).
  • This year, the Ann Arbor Summer Festival is greatly expanding its environmental educational outreach through the addition of the Festival Footprint Learning Center.  This 10’X10’ tent will offer 21 days of informative, transformational guidance from local and regional thought leaders on environmental topics such as the zero waste movement, sustainable lifestyles, and climate change.
  • As a part of this initiative, the festival has brought together corporate, government, non-profit, and higher education entities which include: Toyota’s TERRA, The City of Ann Arbor, U-M Office of Sustainability, Recycle Ann Arbor, Zero Waste Washtenaw, U-M Gala, DTE, BgreenToday, Food Gatherers, AAPS, Project GreeNZ, and the Sierra Club.
  • A large part of the vision is to present educational guidance to festival patrons that will help them bring home the festival’s progress in the areas of responsible waste management and reduction.  It is hoped the materials presented at the Learning Center will positively affect the reducing, reusing, recycling, and composting behaviors of thousands of people, and initiate a collective, tangible change.
  • Seeks to serve as a local and regional leader in effecting change in other organizations, including the Ann Arbor Public Schools and the City of Ann Arbor.
  • The festival will feature Detroit artist Juan Martinez, who will bring his “Pedal Powered Kinetic Sculptures” built from recycled bicycles and metal, an interactive game show hosted by the Ecology Center titled “Guess What’s In It?” or “We Ruin Everything” (the show will highlight the toxic components of everyday items and why the regulations don’t inform the public adequately), and a long-table discussion for a convening on recycling, microplastics, zero waste events, and the arts.
  • James Carter, Programming and Operations Manager for the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, says the Festival Footprint Initiative achieved a 53% diversion rate from the landfill last year. For 2019, they are ramping up the zero-waste efforts toward the goal of 90% diversion or greater.


Ann Arbor Summer Festival

Ann Arbor Summer Festival Volunteer Opportunities

Festival Footprint Initiative

Toyota Newsroom

Huron River Watershed Council

The Ecology Center

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at

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