TEDxPortsmouth is proud to make this year’s event zero-waste. We could not achieve this goal without the amazing partnership with Keith Tharp from Sustainable Seacoast who has taken on the newly minted role of Sustainability Director for TEDxPortsmouth. We caught up with Keith to talk all things trash and learn more about what goes into creating a zero-waste event and what all of us can do to help protect the places we love.

TEDxPortsmouth: You are the TEDxPortsmouth Sustainability Director, so awesome – but what does that mean? What do you do? 

Keith: It is great! We’re very excited to be joining the TEDxPortsmouth team and to help the event move toward a lower waste, less impactful model. One of the things we’ll be doing this first year is working with the Music Hall and local food vendors to have all the meal and snack offerings associated with the event be zero-waste.

TEDxPortsmouth: What’s new in terms of sustainability efforts at this year’s TEDx events?

Keith: Since this is our first year as the Sustainability Director for TEDxPortsmouth everything is new to us. What we’re most excited about is working with our sponsors to help them showcase their commitment to the community and our zero-waste goal by avoiding some of the typical vendor offerings you may see at events like this.

TEDxPortsmouth: When you say “zero-waste” what does that mean?

Keith: The answer to this question can vary greatly depending on who you ask. For us, and TEDxPortsmouth the term “zero-waste” refers to a goal or target of having NO typical landfill or incinerator waste and reducing disposables in general. So while we will be relying on some compostable options like cups and utensils, we are more interested in encouraging our attendees to bring and use their own reusable items like water bottles and travel mugs.

TEDxPortsmouth: What should TEDxPortsmouth participants expect and bring with them? What if they forget to bring anything, will there be sustainable options for them to get drinks/coffee?

Keith: TEDx attendees should remember to bring a reusable water bottle (maybe the TEDxPortsmouth one from the 2017 event) and or a travel mug with them. For me personally, I will be bringing my travel coffee mug and I will use it for coffee and water. I also keep utensils with me, but for folks that forget, we will have compostable cups, utensils and plates for meals and snacks.

TEDxPortsmouth: Why is it important to host zero-waste events?

Keith: This is my favorite question! It’s important because it’s possible, it’s important to host zero-waste events to illustrate how completely attainable and practical the goal is. The obvious additional benefit is the service we are doing for our planet.

TEDxPortsmouth: We’ve seen a lot about the plastic pollution problem globally, but how is it impacting our local Seacoast waters and environment?

Keith: So a common misconception is that single-use plastic waste and plastic pollution is a third-world problem. The reality is that Americans are responsible for more single-use plastic waste per capita than almost any other place on the planet. We’ve been working with other area organizations on beach and community cleanups that have shown us up close the very real and detrimental impact single-use plastic and plastic in general are having right here in the Seacoast. Each cleanup can easily produce hundreds of pounds of plastic waste that volunteers collect, sort and properly recycle or dispose of. Litter on our coasts also affects our wildlife, sea life and our enjoyment of our beautiful Seacoast.

TEDxPortsmouth: What else can folks do to help with this issue?

Keith: The first thing we always suggest to have the biggest personal impact is to shop, dine and support local businesses and events that are committed to doing their part to reduce their impact on the environment. Going to TEDxPortsmouth is a great way to do that. (Also, check out our list of partner businesses and restaurants on our website). Then make sure you express your gratitude to those businesses. And always ask questions and support local officials and candidates that share your values.

Click here to watch Keith’s 2018 TEDxPortsmouth talk on Reducing Single Use Plastics