Kim Price: Waste Not, Want Not
The Chester Fair will be different this year. Not to worry, there will still be all kinds of farm animals, midway rides, tractor pulls, cotton candy, and judging for everything from home-grown radishes to apple pies.
But there is something new for the Fair, on Friday, Aug. 26, Saturday, Aug. 27, and Sunday Aug. 28. This year is the Chester Fair will be Zero Waste, and Kim Price, vice president of the Chester Agricultural and Mechanical Society which sponsors the Fair, has been the one doing all the preparations.
Zero Waste, this year, will actually mean some 80 to 85 percent compostable trash with even less non-compostable waste projected in future years. Kim says one other very large fair in Washington State has been Zero Waste for a decade but no small country fair like Chester has ever attempted it.
Among the things Kim needed to do was to contact all the food vendors to inform them that all their service utensils would have to comply with the new policy.
“They were not happy,” he says.
Some had already bought the supplies they needed; many others pointed out that buying compostable serving ware would be much more expensive.
Kim had a solution: the Fair would pick up 75 percent of the cost of the necessary compostable serving ware. He found out exactly what each vendor needed and searched for compostable items from plates, knives, forks, and ice cream cups to straws. He located it all, and now there are cartons of compostable serving ware stacked in his living room.
There were, nonetheless, a few exceptions. Beer will not be served in compostable cups. It’s not tradition: it’s just that the cost of the compostable cups would have been five times more.
Cups for lemonade and lime rickeys will not be compostable either because the acid in the drinks destroys the compostable variety Kim sourced. The waxed cups the vendors will use will be identified as trash bin items.
The Fair was able to provide subsidies for the vendors through the combination of a matching grant from Sustainable CT, a statewide environmental organization, and individual contributions.
Raising the funds was a new experience for Kim. “I’d never done anything like this before,” he says.
He was worried he would not get the $5,000 dollars the original matching grant required. “I was afraid we might not get more than what I donated,” he says.
In fact, individual contributions topped $5,000 and Sustainable CT contributed another match of $2,500. Added to the funds from the community, the Fair raised some $18,000 towards the Zero Waste program.
“It was a great experience, to be honest,” Kim says, noting that Sustainable CT’s matching grant requirement was key. “The fundraising bought the community into it, and created excitement and momentum.”
The Fair still needs volunteers to advise fair-goers on what types of material go into specified bins at trash collection stations. Volunteers can call Kim at 203-464-6289 or email him at email@example.com
Kim had the idea for Zero Waste in 2018 because he was dismayed by the amount of garbage the Chester Fair produced, some five 350-gallon waste containers.
“They were each the size of a Volkswagen and they were overflowing,” he recalls.
He was still employed full-time, however, and did not have the time to put the project together. He retired in 2019.
“It was time to look again and I wrote a grant,” he recalls. He estimates that since January he has put in from five to eight hours a day on organizing the Zero Waste project.
Kim has long been a recycler and a composter at his own home. Now he says he and his wife Kathy usually will have one garbage bag every two weeks and a full recycle bin. His three daughters, now grown, have come to terms with it.
“It could drive them crazy but they tolerate it as best they can, as well as my nieces and nephews,” he says. “They say that everybody knows about Uncle Kim.”
Kim grew up in Greenwich and first attend Paul Smith’s College in New York State’s Adirondack Park, for a two-year degree in forestry and went on to the University of Massachusetts for a BS. in wood science and technology.
His first job was for a company that made high-density particle board near Green Bay Wisconsin. The boss told him he was starting with three strikes against him: he was young, a college graduate, and an Easterner.
“He was right,” Kim says, but he worked there for three years and followed it with a year as tree cutter. Kim says a year and a few stitches were what was needed to convince him to look for other employment. He worked in sales for a paper company for the rest of his professional career.
Kim says Zero Waste is a three-year project. The goal this is year to reduce trash from last year’s 100 95-gallon bags emptied every day to 40 emptied trash bins a day. Next year’s goal is 15 a day and in 2024, just five a day.
Kim knows that Zero Waste will be something new for Fair goers and Fair participants to accommodate. “I hope they are patient,” he says.
He thinks the benefits are well worth it. “This is the right thing to do,” he says. “With a little effort it is amazing how we could change the world.”
The Chester Fair is Friday, Aug. 26, Saturday, Aug. 27, and Sunday, Aug. 28 on the Chester Fairgrounds, 11 Kirtland Terrace.
To volunteer, contact Kim Price at firstname.lastname@example.org or 203-464-6289.