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Green Arts Sustainability Program

Working with key stakeholders, including the City of Des Moines, Drake University, Iowa Department of Natural Resources, the Environmental Protection agency, and Silent Rivers Design+Build, the Des Moines Arts Festival created a comprehensive, long-range sustainability vision in 2014 designed to identify and implement strategies and procedures that will dramatically reduce waste during the Festival. One of the main objectives in this plan is to achieve ZERO WASTE.


This plan is designed to support and encourage best practices that ensure the Festival has a minimal negative impact on the environment while still delivering a world-class event.

A Sustainability Team will be on the ground dedicated to ensuring the goals of the Vision are not compromised. Examples of this are as follows:

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  • Vinyl banners used during the Festival are recycled and made into tote bags and other uses rather than deposited in the landfill.

  • Free bike valet service provided by Friends of Central Iowa Trails encourages guests to cycle to the Festival instead of driving.

  • All generators used to power the Festival site run on a biodiesel blend.

  • Any paper correspondence is printed on recycled paper and post consumer waste materials.

  • Food vendors are required to use compostable plates, utensils, napkins, and containers.

  • Artists and volunteers are provided designated water stations to fill reusable bottles, eliminating thousands of disposable plastic bottles.

  • Information provided to all participating vendors is delivered electronically and posted on the Festival's web site in order to eliminate paper and other non-recyclable products.

  • Other merchandise options are non-woven bags that can be reused by guests as tote bags, and reusable water bottles.

  • Beverages will be sold in recyclable plastic bottles and aluminum or served in compostable cups.

  • The application process for the juried art fair is completely paperless, using an online registration, application, jury and communications system called ZAPPlication.

Thirteen custom-designed waste stations, positioned throughout the Festival site, accommodate recyclables, compostables, and landfill waste. All waste is logged and accounted for, providing compressive checks and balances. These metrics allow the true, measurable accountability. “We are committed to providing the local and regional public examples of how to operate and produce sustainable events. The biggest challenge we face is the transformation of behavior. Education is the key to make these changes,” said Chaden Halfhill of Silent Rivers Design+Build.

Another impressive component of the Festival’s sustainability plan is the incorporation of Ash trees the City of Des Moines had to cut down due to the Emerald Ash Borer. Instead of immediately disposing of these trees, Silent Rivers Design+Build has transformed them into fencing that surrounds the Festival’s VIP hospitality suites.

The Sustainability Team is led by volunteers and with leadership from Urban Ambassadors, a local non-profit organization focused on sustainability. If you're interested in becoming more engaged with the Festival's sustainability efforts consider volunteering as part of our Green Team during the Festival! Sign up today!

To learn more, contact:
Daphne Dickens, CFEE
Director of Guest Engagement

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