Nancy Vandenberg directs the correct sorting of waste Saturday afternoon during the Everett Food Truck festival on August 26, 2017. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Nancy Vandenberg directs the correct sorting of waste Saturday afternoon during the Everett Food Truck festival on August 26, 2017. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Waste Warriors help community learn about recycling, composting

EVERETT — The Waste Warriors brought their campaign for recycling and composting to the Everett Food Truck Festival late last month.

Volunteers helped people sort through their trash, answering questions about what can and cannot be recycled or composted. They hope families took that knowledge home with them.

Waste Warriors is a branch of the Sustainable Community Stewards, a program run by WSU Extension Snohomish County that emphasizes education and volunteering to help the environment. Other examples of the stewards’ work include the Don’t Drip and Drive campaign and the Green Cleaning recipe book with directions for making environmentally friendly house cleaners.

The Sustainable Community Stewards started as the Carbon Masters in 2010 but was rebranded in 2013, coordinator Stephanie Leeper said. Stewards get 34 hours of training during a seven-week program and volunteer at least 34 more hours.

There are about 45 active stewards working on projects, including the Waste Warriors.

“They learn the ins and outs of what makes something compostable, what makes something recyclable, and why some things still need to go into the trash,” Leeper said.

She tells people that anything recently alive, including food waste from plants and meat, can be composted, as can disposable dishes that are certified for composting.

Carreen Rubenkonig came up with the idea for the Waste Warriors after participating in the stewards training. Her husband is a member of the Edmonds Rotary Club that puts on the Edmonds Waterfront Festival.

“The people we were most likely to be able to educate about recycling and what I call food-cycling are families, and we’re most likely to find families at a festival,” Rubenkonig said.

This summer marked the Waste Warriors’ fifth year at the Waterfront Festival.

Over the years, they’ve gotten more gigs.

They’ve been to Taste of Edmonds, the Arlington Fly-In, Focus on Farming in Monroe, and the Country Living Expo in Stanwood, among other events. The Everett Food Truck Festival is a new addition.

Kathryn Bowman of Everett became a steward in 2014 because she was interested in how to recycle Styrofoam. Most recycling services won’t pick it up, but it can be dropped off at locations in Everett, Bothell, Kirkland and Shoreline. Her interest in Styrofoam recycling grew to include overall recycling through the Waste Warriors.

Bowman and Rubenkonig agree that an important part of recycling and composting at festivals is the materials vendors use. More events are requiring or requesting disposable dishes that can be composted.

“Last year, we had a lot of plates with the shiny designs on them, and those all go to the landfill,” Bowman said. “This year, there were a lot more compostable plates, and that made a huge difference.”

When people learn about recycling and composting, and have time to get comfortable with it, they can change their habits and reduce waste, Rubenkonig said. It’s a slow process, but she’s optimistic.

“Garbage is very interesting, and how we handle it as a society is interesting,” she said. “Many people have serious concerns about the Earth, and this gives you an outlet for expressing your concern and being able to do something … I’m a waste warrior. That’s my thing.”

Kari Bray: 425-339-3439;

Become a steward

The next training is Sept. 20 to Nov. 8. Applications are accepted until Sept. 13. The classes are 6-9:15 p.m. Wednesdays at McCollum Park, with two Saturday field trips.

There’s a $35 fee for materials, but waivers are available for those who can’t afford the cost. Participants must be at least 16 years old.

To get involved, contact Stephanie Leeper at 425-357-6027 or

Talk to us

More in Local News

A car drives by Everett Station where Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin's proposal for its ARPA funds includes funding a child care center at station. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald) 20211118
Council approves lease for Bezos Academy at Everett Station

The preschool will be tuition-free. “I just know how darned important it is,” Councilmember Liz Vogeli said.

Jesse Spitzer (Snohomish County Sheriff's Office)
Wanted man fled from Gold Bar to Idaho, police say

Jesse Spitzer, 30, who has a history of violence against officers, is wanted for felonies in two states.

Sen. Ron Muzzall, R-Oak Harbor, left, speaks on the floor of the Senate, Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2022, at the Capitol in Olympia, Wash., during debate on a measure that would delay implementation of a long-term care program and the payroll tax that pays for it. The Senate passed the measure, which was passed by the House last week, and Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to sign the measure on Friday. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Delay of Washington’s long-term-care program signed into law

The bill addresses concerns about the program’s solvency and criticism about elements of the underlying law.

Police: Marysville Pilchuck student arrested for wielding knife

Neither of the students involved in the Wednesday morning fight was injured, police reported.

Police looking for Mukilteo bank robber, seeking tips

The man appeared to be in his late 20s or early 30s, white, slender, about 5-foot-8, with dark blond hair.

Registered nurse Estella Wilmarth tends to a patient in the acute care unit of Harborview Medical Center, Friday, Jan. 14, 2022, in Seattle. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee is deploying 100 members of the state National Guard to hospitals across the state amid staff shortages due to an omicron-fueled spike in COVID-19 hospitalizations. Inslee announced Thursday that teams will be deployed to assist four overcrowded emergency departments at hospitals in Everett, Yakima, Wenatchee and Spokane, and that testing teams will be based at hospitals in Olympia, Richland, Seattle and Tacoma. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Past the omicron peak? Snohomish County’s COVID cases declining

Hospitalizations are still a concern, however, and infections in Eastern Washington and Idaho could have ripple effects here.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
‘White saviorhood’: Mukilteo schools end ‘Mockingbird’ requirement

The book is not banned in the school district. The last book brought before the school board was by Maya Angelou.

Funko mascots Freddy Funko roll past on a conveyor belt in the Pop! Factory of the company's new flagship store on Aug. 18, 2017.  (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Despite Arizona move, Everett leaders expect Funko HQ to stay

The toymaker is closing Everett warehouses. But a recent “HQ2” expansion has the city confident Funko will remain rooted here.

Anthony Boggess
Man charged with first-degree murder for killing of Marysville roommate

Anthony Boggess, 30, reportedly claimed “demons” told him to hurt people. He’s accused of killing James Thrower, 65.

Most Read