Recycling Away from Home (RAH)

Recycling Away from Home

“Recycling Away from Home”, or RAH, is a Four Lakes Group Sierra Club project where we coordinate with the Marquette Neighborhood Association, Wil-Mar Center and other community groups and activists. The goal is to provide recycling and waste reduction tools, volunteers, support, and education for neighborhood festivals and events in and around Madison. We’re also trying to take the next step and move to composting and Zero Waste events, as well as get Madison to adopt more stringent recycling at events. (Wouldn’t that be great!) With your assistance, we can help communities take the next step.

2023 will bring a variety of festivals where we’ll likely be helping at a  number of them, including Atwoodfest, Africa Fest, Laborfest, and the Willy St Fair.

How To Help RAH

Sierra Club members recycling waste at a festival.Be a part of the “Recycling Krewe”

Since the city does not provide recycling services at neighborhood events, RAH helps with set up, managing recycling and trash, checking and replacing bags during the day, and tearing down after the event. While doing good, you can enjoy the music and other vendors, and make new friends or watch people as you enjoy the festival! Plus volunteers receive free refreshments and pizza for our service at some events where we handle everything. Consider being part of our waste reduction team to help at these festivals. 

In addition to signing up for shifts, we’re also looking for 

  • Leaders who can help coordinate or be a contact for these events
  •  People who want to advocate at the municipal level for stronger recycling requirements at events
  • Individuals who can help with creating signage
  • Volunteers interested in doing outreach to event organizations and vendors to help reduce the potential for waste at events.

A bigger goal is to move towards greater community-wide waste reduction that could include composting. We’re planning to connect with interested businesses, community organizations, and governmental entities to look at various strategies and options to help us move towards further community waste reduction. Let us know if you’re interested in being involved in creating real change!

Please contact Don Ferber for questions, thoughts, or more info.

Don Ferber tables at a Recycling Away from Home event

RAH Upcoming Events

RAH works with several summer festivals every summer in and around Madison. Signups will come later when we have more details, but this summer, the festivals we’ll probably be at include:

When: late July 
Where: Atwood Ave (Division to Winnebago)

Atwoodfest is back in full force, and we’ll be there with a table, and to help keep trash and recycling sorted. (They have people to haul full bags, so less work for us!) This is always a fun street festival with many vendors and great music, so what’s not to enjoy!

Africa Fest
When: late August
Where: McPike Park

This is a smaller but enjoyable event at McPike Park in Madison, with exhibits, food and music that reflect Black heritage, and is fun, easy and informative.

When: September 4
Where: Labor Temple, 1602 S Park St

This event is held every year in support of labor unions where you’ll get to see and talk with many local elected officials there.

Willy St Fair
When: September 16 - 17
Where: 800 - 1000 blocks of Williamson St

This is the big kahuna east side Madison festival with the famous Sunday parade. We’ll have a booth there with tabling both days - which we get for free in return for helping with clean-up each day. They do have people to haul full bags, but we’ll need plenty of volunteers to help keep the trash and recycling sorted. The Willy St Fair is a really big, fun event with lots to do and see, so please consider joining us.

Recycling Resources

One challenge in event recycling is giving vendors the encouragement, support and information they need to use recyclable and biodegradable materials. This is an important role if you’d like to try to work with festivals and vendors to reduce waste. We strongly encourage anyone offering services to Madison area events and festivals to do their part to cut down waste and use earth-friendly products.

Recycling Resources for Your Event

General Info: Visit the Madison Streets Division Recycling page

Recycling Bins: Clear Stream recycling collectors make it easy to recycle plastic & glass bottles, cans, and other recyclable containers at events. Simply place these easy to set-up, free standing units next to your regular trash container(s). Clear Stream units are available at no charge from the City of Madison Recycling Office if you reserve them in advance and plan to pick them up.  Contact Bryan Johnson, City of Madison Recycling Coordinator, at or 608-267-2626 to reserve collectors and learn more about their use for your neighborhood block party, street or park.

Festival Vendor Tips for Waste Reduction

Smart Vendor Checklist:

  • Store napkins behind the counter and hand out one, or have a sign asking each customer to take only one
  • Limit use of disposables (plasticware, napkins, etc.)
  • Use “pump” condiment dispensers (refillable) instead of small packets
  • Rethink food containers (i.e. is paper lining in addition to cardboard baskets necessary)
  • Offer a reusable drink container and discounted refills, or offer to use the customer’s container
  • Dispense straws or lids only when requested
  • Use reusable containers to transport food to the festival site
  • Use washable cloth towels or sponges to clean up behind the counter
  • Use recycled products with the highest percentage possible post-consumer waste 
  • When disposable items are necessary, buy recycled and unbleached paper
  • Save food waste for animal consumption or composting
  • Donate leftovers to volunteers or area shelters
  • Offer smaller portions to reduce food waste by consumers with lesser appetites
  • Use non-toxic cleaners and buy cleaners in bulk, or use concentrates
  • Ask your suppliers to transport products without corrugated boxes, or in reusable boxes
  • Share little used items with neighboring vendors
  • Avoid bringing more than you have to