A successful pilot project, led by The Environmental Center’s Rethink Waste Project and a number of participating lodging destinations across Deschutes County, wrapped up this summer with lessons learned and a new guide for lodging sites to refer to when implementing sustainability efforts into their operations. The pilot project was carried out in partnership with Deschutes County Solid Waste, Visit Central Oregon, and participating pilot sites.
The project came about recognizing that Deschutes County has over 4.3 million visitors annually! That’s a lot of extra people practicing a variety of reduce, reuse, and recycle habits from around the world, when the reality is that waste infrastructure varies from community to community. Starting in 2021, The Rethink Waste Project set out to learn what it takes to set visitors up for success to reduce, reuse, and recycle like a local.
Udara Abeysekera Bickett, Rethink Waste Program Manager, led the way in collaboration with lodging destinations. “After a series of focus group discussions with tourism industry professionals conducted the previous year, we invited tourist destinations across Deschutes County to participate in a pilot project aimed at putting waste reduction and recovery education and infrastructure to the test.” Explains Udara, “We offered the four pilot sites – all a variety of lodging destinations – tailored recommendations based on their unique relationships with “stuff” and existing waste practices and challenges. We also provided up to $1,200 of technical assistance funds to implement the strategies they selected based on our list of recommendations.” More details about each site’s improvements (Tetherow Resort, the Birds Nest AirBnB, Mt. Bachelor Village Resort River Ridge I & II, and Campfire Hotel) can be found on the blog at envirocenter.org.
Lessons learned from the focus group and four participating sites were compiled into a new guide that is now available for the public in print or online: the Guide to Rethinking Waste at Lodging Destinations. Sections include how to reduce waste from the get-go (think experiential giveaways instead of swag bags), set up a successful reuse/refill system, tips to recycle properly and instill recycling habits in visitors, and ways to measure success.
Two of the lodging sites even plan to expand on the work they completed during the pilot project by tapping into funding from the Rethink Waste Project’s Community Innovation Fund (CIF). The CIF provides funding and technical support to individuals, businesses, or community organizations to implement waste reduction or recovery projects throughout Deschutes County. In 2023, $15,000 of the $40,000 budget was designated specifically for projects that take place at or largely impact visitor destinations, such as a visitor lodging property, restaurant/eatery, park/trail/nature area, outfitter/activity company, museum/gallery, or entertainment venue.
The CIF will continue to grow in 2024. The Environmental Center encourages more visitor destinations take advantage of the program’s financial and technical support to implement waste reduction and recycling/composting they’ve been dreaming up. Information about the CIF can be found at: https://envirocenter.org/programs/rethink-waste-project/what-we-offer/community-innovation-fund/
The new Guide to Rethinking Waste at Lodging Destinations can be picked up in person at The Environmental Center office at 16 NW Kansas Ave during normal office hours, or as a downloadable PDF online: https://envirocenter.org/programs/rethink-waste-project/what-we-offer/rethink-waste-guides/