Alpena Chowder & Chili Cook-off to be zero-waste event

The fifth-annual Chowder & Chili Cook-off is only a few weeks away– and like last year’s event, the cook-off will be completely zero-waste with the help of a local group of students.

What does it mean to be zero-waste? Zero-waste events are planned to minimize the amount of waste sent to landfill generated at events. At the cook–off, this means:

  • Metal muffin tins will be used instead of plastic cups to sample chilis and chowders. Trays will be cleaned and reused each year.
  • Metal spoons will replace plastic spoons. Metal spoons will be cleaned and reused.
  • All food waste will be taken to a local farm for composting.
  • All paper waste and napkins will be composted.
  • All beer bottles will be recycled.

This year, reusable plastic wine glasses will also be used at the event, replacing single-use plastic cups that were recycled after last year’s event.

“Plastics F.L.O.A.T. 4-H Club is really excited to partner with the DDA again this year to make the popular Chowder Cook-Off Zero Waste,” said club coordinator Stephanie Gandulla. “The idea — to not use single use plastics and to compost food waste — is simple, but it takes a team to do it. The DDA has been so encouraging and is really setting an example in responsible event management for the community. ”

The zero-waste initiative for the cook-off began last year when one member of the Downtown Development Authority’s (DDA) Promotions Committee mentioned another city’s cook-off which used muffin tins to carry samples– which inspired the committee to eliminate plastic cups altogether and serve samples directly in the reusable trays.

Meaghan Gass, who at the time lead the Plastics F.L.O.A.T. 4-H Club, was instrumental in planning details of the event and ensuring it was zero-waste– including coordinating a place to compost food waste and paper materials, recruiting volunteers to help direct and sort waste, and providing alternatives to single-use elements of the event.


Because of the zero-waste initiative, over 5,550 plastic cups and 400 spoons were never used or sent to landfill. Similarly, over 50 lbs of food waste and two bags of napkins and paper waste were sent to compost instead of landfill.

“Each and every one of us can play a part in using less single-use plastic to preserve our beautiful Great Lakes,” said Gandulla.

The Downtown Alpena Chowder & Chili Cook-off is scheduled for Saturday, October 6, 2018 from 12-4 pm. Entrance is $10. Beer and wine will also be available for purchase.

If you’d like to learn more about how to make YOUR event or meeting (no matter how small or large) zero-waste, please reach out to Plastics F.L.O.A.T. coordinators Stephanie Gandulla at and Jessica Luther at

Anne Gentry writes for Blog Downtown Alpena and hopes to see you at the cook-off. Follow the blog on instagram and facebook @blogdowntownalpena.

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