Waldorf School Celebrates Successful Community Carnival With a Focus on Zero Waste

| By Adrienne Grant (Enviroschools Facilitator Waikato)

Hine Pūtehue shows qualities of the gourd; restoring peace, calm and healing, with soothing tones and musical qualities.

The annual Waikato Waldorf School Medieval Carnival is a truly unique school fundraiser, and has been part of Hamilton’s event calendar for over 20 years.

Banquet tables were Zero Waste and crockery/cutlery reused

For one day each year the school is transformed into a medieval village. Castle walls are “built” to surround the school and approximately 2000 visitors come through its fortress-like gates.

Live jousting, sword fighting, roman legions, a working forge, horse and cart rides and plenty of interactive fun games and activities for children to get involved with create a truly magical atmosphere.

There is also a large banquet table and a variety of food stalls where punters can get a range of healthy food to sustain them through all these activities.

At the end of the Carnival in 2017 the parent association group and other parents at the school reflected that the carnival had grown in size considerably over recent years.

“We did not feel that single-use plates and cups going into the landfill was an option.  We needed to make a start in planning for a carnival that is now larger but with a footprint that is as small as possible” – Claire Murdoch, parent.

The whole community comes together to plan, run and enjoy the Medieval Carnival each year.

In 2018, creating a Zero Waste event became a goal when the Parent Association at Waikato Waldorf School started planning this year’s Medieval Carnival.

They knew it was ambitious, but as an Enviroschool working to deepen its commitment to sustainability (and working towards Green Gold), they took up the challenge.

One parent, Claire Murdoch, took the lead role in planning and organising the waste management for the event.

Exploring options and planning started several months out, and about 6 weeks before the event Claire began working in earnest with Charlotte, the Enviroschools Lead Teacher and Adrienne, the Enviroschools Facilitator.

The aims they developed were to:

  • have zero waste as an aspiration;
  • reduce waste created in the first place;
  • have reusable items where possible;
  • compost as much waste as possible;
  • recycle where items couldn’t be reduced, reused or composted;
  • raise awareness and reduce as much waste to landfill as possible; and
  • make a start!

After the initial scoping and planning meetings between Charlotte, Claire and Adrienne, Charlotte talked to the staff about the concept of a Zero waste Carnival and how it might be achieved.

It was decided that Class 8 students would take on the responsibility of monitoring the waste throughout the day. Parents of this class offered help in supervising the waste stations, ensuring that people knew what waste went into which bin.

Melanie Lints, the class teacher, challenged the students to think critically and look at ideas that they could implement on the day.

Their ideas included:

  1. Wear appropriate hi-vis jackets with their roles on name-tags so they were visible.
  2.  Make waste pickers from repurposed materials so it was hygienic to collect waste left lying around the school.
  3. Role-model positive behaviour around the younger students (creating tuakana/ teina relationships)
  4. Whaea Charlotte would share information with the whole schools to establish the roles and responsibilities.
  5. Explain what each bin will represent and what its label should detail.
  6. That a roster is created so everyone had time to contribute and still have fun on the day.

Claire investigated the sorts of waste that might be produced from the food stalls at the event and then sought to find alternative compostable or recyclable options that could be used.

Food stall owners were informed of the intention to go Zero Waste and given information about the sorts of reusable, compostable or biodegradable plates, cutlery and drink containers they could purchase.

The Zero Waste vision for the event was promoted in the advertising for the carnival, encouraging visitors to bring their own bags, reusable cups, plates and cutlery.

The Medieval Carnival fun continues while clearly labelled bins and waste monitors helped manage waste on the day.

The whole school was involved in the carnival, and students helped prepare the waste stations and made signs to help sorting.

On the day of the carnival, a special station was set up for crockery and cutlery (purchased from a local opportunity shop) that could be borrowed and washed after use.

There were students and adults who helped with collecting crockery and returning these, cleaned, to each stand.

The team insured that each site had two students on the waste collection points and two students collecting waste around the rest of the school. Adults supervised on the waste collection points alongside the students.

To measure the quantity of waste diverted from landfill this year, and so that future change could be measured, the organising team decided to audit the waste at the end of the day. Large compostable bags were used to line each bin, and once full, taken to the waste audit area.

The total amount of waste collected was 73.5kg (including all compostables, recyclables and waste to landfill). The total of all compostables and recyclables was 62.4 kg, which meant only 11.1 kg or 15% went to landfill.

All of the compostables where able to be composted on site in the school’s hot compost pile. Biodegradeable cups were sent to “We Compost in Auckland.

The students and adults analysed the results and shared these with the rest of the school. The audit provided some powerful evidence for their efforts.It also highlighted aspects that could be worked on for next year, like encouraging more people to bring re-usable coffee cups and reducing the amount of compostable plates and paper.

The school felt this work towards a Zero Waste event was really positive and thanked Claire and the PA for their amazing efforts. The Enviro group wrote a piece in the Friday flyer.

Claire and her team where really pleased with the results and the willingness of food stall owners to support the vision.  The value of having supervised sorting stations cannot be over-emphasised.

Sorting waste at an event, is still not the norm and most people don’t realise how important it is not to contaminate the waste stream with the wrong item in the wrong bin.  Many people were just not used to it and even clearly labelled bins weren’t enough to prevent the wrong item going into the bin.

Having people at the sorting stations provided the additional benefit of conversations about waste, what to do with it and a growing awareness about reducing waste.

Click here to view Zero Waste resources

Students were well mannered and took on the responsibility of aiding waste management very well. They upheld the mana of the school and the community got wonderful feedback from visitors wanting to implement something like this in their events. Positive comments were made in our Friday flier and other media outlets.

With their first year of working towards Zero Waste at the Medieval Carnival complete, the Parent Association now has experience and feedback from others to help plan future events.

This first effort of creating a Zero waste Carnival achieved a significant reduction in waste to land-fill and raising of awareness within the organising group and wider school.

By implementing some simple strategies (in particular sorting waste on site and ensuring the use of reusable, compostable or biodegradable containers) the school community was able to make a difference and model positive behaviour.

The data from the waste audit is invaluable as it can help the school measure change in their event waste management practices over time.

Next year the team will allow more time to educate students and the community about Zero Waste options and waste sorting systems. This could include having the enviro group place notices around the school and in the newsletter with tips and facts about waste minimisation.

This would help empower everyone to work together in make good decisions about what comes onto site and happens on the day, including using the correct bins.

The Zero waste event philosophy could expand to set-up times leading up to the Carnival day to include actors and anyone staying at the school. Waste collected on these days would be held separately and provide an insight into this waste aspect of the event organisation.

The Carnival planning group is now aiming to reduce single-use resources in 2019, and increase the uptake of BYO picnic ware.

Having the whole school involved in raising awareness of the ecological and economic benefits of this approach can hopefully help to overcome some of the perceived barriers and move the event closer to the vision of Zero Waste.

2019 Update!

Waikato Waldorf Medieval Carnival Event Waste management – 31 March 2019

Empowered with their reflection and next steps from 2018, Waikato Waldorf Carnival organisers and students considered ways to reduce waste even further for the 2019 event. Below are the results of the audit and thoughts about how they could continue to improve.

2018 Carnival Waste Audit results

Compostable and recyclable 62.4kg 85%
Waste to landfill 11.1kg 15%
Total waste collected  73.5 kg 100%

2019 Carnival Waste Audit results

Waste stream Total kg %
Landfill 5.9 13.4
Compostable (including paper and cardboard) 19.9 45.1%
Food scraps 17.3 39.1%
Recyclable – cans; plastic bottles brought onto site. 1.05 2.4%
Total weight 44.5kg 100 %


Comparison between 2018 and 2019

Total waste collected has reduced 73.5kg in 2018 to 44.5kg in 2019 – a reduction of 39.5%

Waste to landfill has reduced from 11.1 kg in 2018 to 5.9kg in 2019 – a reduction of 57%

To fully determine the cause of these results, this would need to be compared with number of people attending and the total net taking.

In 2019 there was an obvious reduction in disposable paper plates and coffee cups used.  This was a result of the Silver Service reusable crockery and wash station that was employed.


Overall Pūmahara – Reflections

  • 6% of waste generated was diverted from landfill by composting waste and sending food scraps to chickens/bokashi
  • Noticeable quantities of non-compostable handwipes in landfill waste stream. Could these be replaced with compostable paper towels?
  • Confusion about what to do with the Dizzy Ice Block Wrappers. These are 100% cellulose and therefore compostable, so they should have all gone in the compostable bin, however many ended up in landfill. Make sure there are clear notices at both purchase point and waste station that ice block wrappers and sticks are compostable.
  • Paper bags for popcorn were large and added to compostable waste.These could have been half the size reducing cost and wastage.
  • A large number of food-handling gloves in landfill bin. Uncertain about H&S – are these a requirement or an expectation and habit?
  • Large cardboard boxes/ plastic brought on site and left on site by food contractors. By managing the waste on site the PA/School is able to see and take care of what is left behind.
  • Several nappies disposed of in landfill bin
  • Next year perhaps senior students could take responsibility for auditing and analysing the waste results

This case study has already helped to inspire and guide schools around the Enviroschools network, setting a precedent and providing some ideas for waste reduction and event waste auditing. Ka mau te wehi Waldorf School for tackling such an important issue and working towards Zero Waste.  You are empowering others and building a resilient and sustainable community.

Papatūānuku – Qualities of being generative, nurturing, and protecting, with enduring and unconditional love.