By Kathryn McKenzie, Living Green
It’s been a full decade since The Offset Project began in Monterey County, yet founder/executive director Kristin Cushman is not resting on her laurels this week. In fact, we talked as she was driving to Pebble Beach to advise on preparations for the Concours d’Elegance.
Thanks to TOP, events like the Concours and others have greatly lessened their impact on our local environment, with recyclables being recycled, materials reclaimed and reused, food waste composted and — more importantly — steps taken to mitigate the effect of events’ carbon footprints.
A fitting 10-year birthday present came last week in the form of two state grants, Cushman said. “That tells me we’ve earned respect among the state agencies,” she said. “People are seeing the value in what we’re trying to do.”
Cushman was inspired to create TOP in 2007 while working in event management and seeing first-hand the need to sustainably deal with the waste that resulted from large events. She realized that she could make a difference.
“There were no environmental programs (of that type) here,” she said. “We were pioneers.”
A crowd of classic car enthusiasts on the 18th hole fairway of the Pebble Beach Golf Links during the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017. (Vern Fisher - Monterey Herald)
The Offset Project is a nonprofit organization, but it’s quite business-oriented in the way it approaches sustainability. Part of TOP’s mission is to show how environmental management of events can be less costly than doing it the old-fashioned way. It’s something referred to as “the triple bottom line,” in which a business or organization unites social, environmental and financial growth.
For instance, TOP helped the Big Sur Marathon curb its waste problem so that despite the fact that there are 10,000 runners, only two bags of trash are generated. “This helped reduce litter issues, hauling fees and created a community story to share with other local events,” says the TOP website, www.theoffsetproject.org.
TOP helps these events with recycling — setting up the proper bins and signage, for instance — but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Proper planning at the beginning can also minimize waste and aid in making better choices.
“It seems simple now, but 10 years ago, this was all new,” said Cushman of sustainably managing events. And she’s always pushing for more, noting that she would be working with “deconstruction” at the Concours. Instead of bulldozing structures created for the event, they would instead be dismantled and the materials reused.
Another service TOP provides is management of a carbon offset fund, where individuals, businesses and other nonprofits are able to mitigate their carbon footprint. At www.montereybaycarboncalculator.org, you can make a calculation of what the carbon cost would be for a particular event and make a donation; money from the fund goes to help local solar and education projects.
TOP has helped just about every big event in the country become more sustainable, from the Monterey Jazz Festival to the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and also assists local cities, counties and other entities. Cushman’s hope is that the lessons from TOP will simply become part of event organization, “so we don’t have to come in as a third party” to manage sustainability.
That will give TOP more leeway to go on to new and exciting programs, such as providing food waste education for chefs and restaurants, and doing more with the energy market in the region to encourage people to choose power made from renewable resources such as solar.
Cushman praised her board of directors, headed by Anjanette Adams, owner of Monterey Signs. “We couldn’t have done all this without a strong board,” she said.
And you, too, can support TOP at its upcoming fundraiser — the “Cruise for Climate” whale watching trip on Sept. 10. To sign up, call 375-4658; cost is $57 per person, and all proceeds will be donated to TOP. More information is available at gowhales.com/CruiseForClimate.htm.