Sustainability Accomplishments in 2023 at Great Parks

By Stephanie Bacher, Sustainability Coordinator, Great Parks

In my role leading many sustainability initiatives for Great Parks of Hamilton County, I am grateful every day to be part of an organization that practices sustainability as a core value.

As I look back on my first year, I’m excited to share the successes we’ve had with our landfill diversion programs, cleanup events, and new programming for employees.

Landfill Diversion

We celebrated some big wins during 2023 in diverting cell phones, plastic, electronics, and even compost – keeping nearly 14 tons of material out of landfills. That’s the same as about 28 grand pianos, 14 walruses, or eight cars – heavy stuff! Let’s take a closer look.

A cell phone recycling bin at Winton Centre.

In 2023 Great Parks recycled 257 cell phones through our partnership with ECO-CELL. This program is available to the public year-round, and guests can drop off their old phones at locations throughout Great Parks.

We also resumed the internal compost program at Winton Centre and added the Winton Woods Campground in partnership with Queen City Commons. Between September and December 2023, we diverted nearly 300 pounds of food waste from the landfill. For our larger internal events and public programming, we utilize GoZero composting services, through which we diverted over 200 pounds of food waste last year.

Great Parks has started collecting plastic film (the store drop-off type) that is generated from our daily operations. We send and receive pallets of material that is plastic-wrapped, we purchase items for our retail shops that come wrapped in plastic, and we have other uses for this kind of plastic, too. It can all be recycled. We have collection points at two locations and hope to expand this internal program in the future. Again, between September and December 2023, we diverted nearly 50 pounds of plastic film from the landfill by dropping it off at the Cincinnati Recycling and Reuse Hub.

This past fall, we held our first electronic waste collection event in partnership with Cohen Recycling. A team of employees and volunteers collected 11,147 pounds of electronic waste during this November 11th event. We plan to host three events of this type in 2024, one in each region of the county. So stay tuned – more details to come!

To top off the year, we resumed our annual holiday lights recycling program. From December 1 to February 1 people can drop off broken, non-working holiday lights at any of the six park destinations listed here. Recycling holiday lights instead of throwing them in the trash keeps them out of landfills and gives them a new life. Thanks to our partnership with Cohen, we hope to exceed last year’s total of 14,641 pounds of lights recycled.

Cleaning Up

Our biggest volunteer event in 2023 was a cleanup, as we focused on Winton Lake for our first annual Protect Your Wild event on Earth Day. Volunteers collected 155 bags of trash, 66 bags of recycling, three tires, and half of a shopping cart! After all that hard work, we had fun, too, with educational booths, food trucks, entertainment, games, and upcycling.

This first Protect Your Wild event was fun and informative. Look for information to come about the next Great Parks Protect Your Wild, celebration and clean-up in the spring of 2024.

Education for Our Employees

Driving more sustainability at Great Parks involves our entire team, which is why we are expanding internal education opportunities. This year, employees toured the Rumpke Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), Rumpke Sanitary Landfill, and the Cincinnati Recycling and Reuse Hub. We offered these tours to better illustrate to folks where stuff goes when you “get rid” of it and to help them better understand our local waste stream. Whether you recycle it, trash it, or send it for reuse, it’s important to see these facilities in action to better understand why we do what we do for sustainability.

We’re making tremendous progress on sustainability projects at Great Parks. Look for even more announcements from us throughout the year in 2024!