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As Zero Waste Event, State Fair Encourages Sustainability

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Zero waste is the goal, as the Nebraska State Fair tries to limit its environmental footprint. With 300,000 visitors, you may be surprised how little ends up in the landfill.

They recycle as much as they can, even cooking oil. And that spirit extends to the community, with a city–wide clean up that is underway.

Denise McGovern-Gallagher said, "We have a little over 500 volunteers over next nine days cleaning up Grand Island."

With Nebraska's wind and wipe open spaces, it doesn't make much for litter to accumulate. McGovern-Gallagher is head of Grand Island Area Clean Community System, who is organizing the clean-up event.

She said, "We're focusing on every intersection that comes into Grand Island, focusing on all the roads that encompass the state fair park, focusing on 15 miles of the marathon route, as well as hike and bike and parks."

It's done in anticipation of the State Fair, which itself has a green reputation, as a certified zero waste event.

Facility Director Jaime Parr said, "That status was not easy to come by, we're proud of it."

The fair will be working with vendors to compost food waste and livestock bedding.

Some stuff will still go in the trash, but not much when you consider 300,000 guests will visit.

Parr said, "We're diverting at least 90 percent of our waste from the landfill, so 90 percent of our waste is going to a recycling center or biofuels with used fryer oils, recycling aluminum cans, not going to the landfill."

The fair wants to educate others about sustainability, with a new pavilion made with recycled materials, that will feature programs and "make and take" projects to teach visitors about sustainability.

Parr said, "There are scheduled education times and then also static exhibits all the time that are in there that people can come and go and look at and learn while they're enjoying a new atmosphere."

That green spirit extends to the days leading up to the fair, as fair staff join with city leaders and volunteers for the clean-up effort.

Parr said, "We've had great response, a lot of people have signed up, a lot of businesses have gotten on board so we're very excited to see community wide effort to clean up the town."

Another clean-up starts Saturday at 9:00 a.m. downtown, in the area of Front Street to 3rd Street between Eddy and Sycamore, followed by another clean up at 10:30 – noon on Second Street between Eddy and Sycamore.

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For more information, contact Denise McGovern-Gallagher, Executive Director of Grand Island Area Clean Community System at 308-385-5095.

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