Food Service & Agriculture, Retail, and Sustainability

Irish on Ionia turns green

March 17, 2014
| By Pat Evans |
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Irish on Ionia parties toward zero waste
The annual Irish on Ionia street party in downtown Grand Rapids draws about 20,000 people. Photo via

Thousands of partiers were unknowingly part of a green movement this past weekend.

During Irish on Ionia, about 20,000 people celebrating St. Patrick’s Day at BarFly Ventures’ annual street party in downtown Grand Rapids were part of a zero-waste event.

Last year, the event filled the equivalent of 10 dumpsters full of trash, according to Autumn Sands, BarFly Ventures sustainability director.

“We are increasing in size,” Sands said. “But we are working to eliminate our landfill waste.”

Compostable supplies

This year, instead of sending thousands of pounds of plastic cups, plates, napkins and silverware to garbage trucks, the company went with compostable equivalents.

Sands said they also worked with a company that donated 20 liters of water to Africa for every case of cups they bought.

Sands added that even though the cups are compostable, they encouraged people to use the same cup throughout the event.

“This is the first year we’re using all compostable cups and products,” Sands said. “Everything we use will go into composting bins and to New Soil.”

New Soil is a Grand Rapids-based company focusing on green waste collection and commercial composting.

Going green

Sands said the sustainability push isn’t limited to the Irish on Ionia event and includes the entire BarFly family of companies: Grand Rapids Brewing Co., McFadden’s, HopCat, HopCat East Lansing and Stella’s.

“We’re increasingly getting better at composting and recycling,” Sands said. “We’ve eliminated waste by over 90 percent at every location.”

She said the company that supplies their products works with BarFly to make sure the cost is matched.

Sands added that some of the green products come below their standard counterpart’s cost.

“We constantly analyze our energy consumption, water consumption — our bills — to see where we can do better,” Sands said. “People tend to think it costs more. But in some cases, we’ve saved money. And composting in Grand Rapids tends to cost less.”

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