Zero Waste Fest: An Educating and Empowering Way to Start Earth Month

By Imani C. Davis


Longtime zero waste organization Race to Zero Waste held their annual Zero Waste festival at Crissy Field on April 1st. A run, waste-free breakfast and resource fair showcased the zero waste lifestyle. 

The event began with a 5k run or 1 mile walk around Crissy Field, followed by breakfast served on stainless steel cups, mugs and tin plates, completely without disposables. After the  Ramaytush Ohlone land acknowledgement, a San Francisco Environment representative, a member of Sea Hugger, and Teresa Bradley, the CEO of Race to Zero Waste, all spoke. Yoga Kaivalya’s Vanessa Gullatte Means led some light stretching.

Vanessa Means at Zero Waste Fest, April 1, 2023. Photo by Imani Davis.

Following the athletic activities, participants socialized while enjoying music and yerba mate tea, coffee and pastries.  Next there was a raffle. The prizes included reusable items such as insulated tumblers, stainless steel food containers and utensil kits, and a copy of eco superhero Resilience’s graphic novel.

Twelve organizations had tables at the resource fair, held in Sports Basement’s public space The Dairy,  giving participants a firsthand look into how to incorporate accessible zero waste actions into their daily lives. The only refill store in SF, a coalition of zero waste organizations, a beach clean-up group and a presentation of a new recycling machine from Kenya were there. A character in an eco-hero costume promoted a graphic novel, the yoga instructor talked about personal sustainability, and an upcycling screenprinter made Zero Waste Fest shirts on second hand t-shirts. The festival was a fun showcase of what a greener world could be.

Jessica Jane Robinson explained her Resilience Birthright Saga, a transmedia project about a superhero destined to save Planet Earth. She said, “So whether humans, animals, plants, the environment, trees, we’re all resilient and it’s our birthright to come out of challenges and struggles.” This year, Robinson, a CEO and president of the Northern California Recycling Association and longtime participant of Zero Waste Fest, shared her graphic novel, Resilience Birthright: Origins of Resilience. She created it to bring readers a sense of hope.

Vanessa Means of Yoga Kaivalya leads participants in yoga at Zero Waste Fest, April 1, 2023.Photo by Imani Davis/The Guardsman

Means reflected on some of her conversations. “I think that a lot of people after, you know, talking to them today, they’re like, ‘Wow, I never realized how much I actually neglect myself.’”

Torben Umeda of Stainable Ink said “right now there’s no way to get both high quality, used t-shirts, which there’s a huge market for, because people want sustainable swag for their businesses.” Not only creating a new item out of something used before, Umeda is simultaneously supporting the reuse economy. “So that’s the whole point of the business, is to create a supply chain for used clothing, which as a byproduct, I’m also pumping money into the secondhand market as I’m paying thrifters to get me shirts. And like, I think that secondhand market is what the world is eventually going to have to run on.”

Teresa Bradley, CEO of Race to Zero Waste, speaking at Zero Waste Fest, April 1, 2023. Photo by Imani Davis/The Guardsman

Rather than educating attendees on theory and what can be possible, the Zero Waste Fest engaged with them about what currently is possible. They talked about the actions needed to create a future, zero waste, closed loop system but balanced that with empowering practices that folks could start on in the present.  

Race to ZeroWaste will have pop-ups in Dolores Park at 18th & Church, 1-7 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday, from May through October. It’s a great opportunity to engage them about proper waste sorting, moving towards a zero waste lifestyle or getting involved in their organization. One might also catch them at Carnaval, May 27th and 28th, or Castro Street Fair, October 1st. To learn more visit

The Guardsman