Colin Smith

Avenue Calgary’s 2016 Top 40 Under 40.

Photograph by Erin Brooke Burns. Photographed at the Taylor Institute for Teaching and Learning at the University of Calgary.

Age: 29

Job title: Founder and Leader, Green Event Services

Why he’s a 2016 Top 40:

Through his company, Green Event Services, Smith has diverted thousands of pounds of waste from landfills and changed Calgarians’ expectations of green waste services at festivals and community events.

Making garbage a topic of city-wide conversation is no easy task. But, through his innovative start-up company, Green Event Services, Colin Smith has managed to actually make waste management cool.

Green Event Services is Calgary’s premier, environmentally conscious, event waste-management team. Smith’s goal is to create zero-waste communities, where festivals and community events can direct all on-site waste into recycling and compost bins, rather than to landfills.

The idea for the company came together by accident, literally: after breaking his arm snowboarding and taking medical leave from his job as an oil and gas electrician in 2012, Smith put his energy into volunteering with Sled Island to develop the music festival’s environmental practices. The project was so successful, he decided to turn his volunteer efforts into an actual business.

“It’s not that the music festivals in Calgary didn’t have the desire to be environmentally responsible, they just didn’t have the resources or anyone to take care of it for them,” Smith says. “I’d witnessed that it was possible in other cities for there to be these multi-day, 100,000-person music festivals with similar programs and knew it was possible in Calgary.”

Smith launched Green Event Services in the winter of 2013 and has since worked more than 100 events attended by more than 1 million people, diverting more than 60 tonnes of waste from landfills. Clients include Lilac Festival, the Stampede Roundup and Oxford Stomp, X-Fest, Market Collective and the City of Calgary’s Canada Day celebrations. One of the first events to sign on, Lilac Fest has seen its waste diversion rate go from 15 per cent – before Smith started working with them – to 77 per cent this year. Thanks to Green Event’s vendor and consumer education, Styrofoam has been banned from the festival and, next year, all vendors will be mandated to use compostable food containers.

Taking out the garbage is still not exactly the sexiest of topics, but Smith is making responsible waste management an expectation at community events. He feels a sea change taking place but also knows that there’s still work to be done.

“We still have a lot of educating to do,” Smith says. “There are still a lot of people who are unsure about which items go where. Our goal is to raise the bar of what’s expected from waste management at events – and we’re definitely achieving that.” – Elizabeth Chorney-Booth

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