by David Layland

Napa Valley Register

Since moving to South Napa Century Center, the Napa Farmers Market has placed an emphasis on being “green.” We stopped selling water in plastic bottles when we acquired a water bottle refill station. Bring us 10 single-use plastic produce bags, and we’ll give you one reusable mesh produce bag. We collect berry baskets and egg cartons from customers and give them to farmers for reuse.

Of equal importance, we have separate receptacles for recycling, compost and trash with signs indicating which items go in which receptacle. Kendra Bruno, aka The Compost Girl, and her City of Napa staff have been at the market several times to stand next to these receptacles and help customers make the right decision. We even have our staff inspect the receptacles and move any items that were disposed of incorrectly.

Previously, all of our recycling, compost and trash went into 33-gallon receptacles. At the end of the day, the compost receptacles were full, but the recycling and trash receptacles were only half full. At Bruno’s suggestion, we made the recycling and trash receptacles smaller. We weren’t trying to save money on liner bags but to see if this would help customers make the correct decision, and it did.

The next step on the market’s mission to be greener is to eliminate or greatly reduce the contents of the trash receptacles. The market can’t do this on its own as most of the trash comes from our food vendors.

In the 1967 film “The Graduate,” Benjamin Braddock, played by Dustin Hoffman, is at a cocktail party his parents have thrown for his graduation from college. A friend of Ben’s parents takes Ben aside at the party and says he has one word of advice for him. The word is “plastics.”

In the film, “plastics” is understood to mean a cheap, sterile, ugly and meaningless way of life. It represents everything about the values of the older generation that is repugnant to Ben. Here we are, 52 years later, and plastics still have a negative connotation, yet they are the primary occupant of the market’s trash receptacles.

In 2020, the market will require all vendors to stop using single-use plastic produce bags, plastic plates, cups and eating utensils and anything else that can’t be disposed of in the compost or recycling receptacles.

Fortunately, several vendors have already started using compostable plates and cups for food consumed onsite and brown paper bags for produce to be taken home. Even better, many customers have gotten on the bandwagon and are bringing their reusable produce bags to the market.

The market staff and board are optimistic that in 2020 the market will be even greener and a Certified Green Business to boot.

If, like me, you have wondered what happens to recycling and compost materials when they leave South Napa Century Center or your own home, you can take a free tour of Napa’s recycling and compost facility in American Canyon. Recently, I took a tour led by Kevin Miller with the City of Napa that covered the entire process.

The tour takes about one hour and is perfect for everyone from kids to recycling and compost geeks like me. The next tour is scheduled for Friday, Nov. 15. If you’re interested, check out the Napa Recycling and Waste Services website. You will learn a lot and become much more thoughtful about waste.

Pick up some acorn squash at the Napa Farmers Market for this tasty side dish. I’m betting none of it will go to waste.

Honey-Roasted Acorn Squash Rings

This recipe from Tara Parker-Pope appeared in The New York Times.