Garden view tiny home village

A highlight of summer in Bellingham is hanging out at The Portal – a colorful, seasonal container village on Bellingham’s Downtown Waterfront. Imagine a beautiful day watching bikers on the pump track while sipping on a pint from Kulshan’s Trackside Beer Garden and chowing down on a burger from Rain or Shine Riviera Club. Or maybe you’re in the mood for a treat. Goodies from Our Kitchen? A scoop or two from The Selkie Scoop? Is your favorite food truck there?   The Portal is one of the Toward Zero Waste team’s favorite spots to kick back so we were excited to begin working with the Port of Bellingham in 2022 to increase waste reduction. Our goal: to support visitors and businesses of The Portal in correctly sorting their waste to keep compostable and recyclable materials out of the landfill. 

This opportunity to promote composting and the transition from single-use plastics came at pivotal time with the implementation of the City of Bellingham’s single-use plastics ordinance which restricts single-use plastics we commonly see with to-go food and drink. Offering composting receptacles was an obvious decision for businesses at The Portal as it just made sense to provide the appropriate receptacle for the type of waste being generated. 

The Port of Bellingham was quick to say yes to this project.  Carey Hansen is an Executive Administrator and oversees the area.  “The Port is committed to reducing waste and conserving resources.  We have been developing a partnership with Sustainable Connections, to work towards this common goal at The Portal Container Village site.” she explained. 

The 2022 season saw an average diversion rate of 53% of The Portal’s waste from landfills. That’s 7,184 cubic feet, which is enough to fill over 1,260 standard bathtubs!  “We plan to increase that number this year!” said Hansen. 

Kulshan Brewery was another important partner in these efforts.At Kulshan’s Trackside Beer Garden, despite creating very little waste ourselves, we find ourselves managing the majority of the waste that is brought in from the community. Our largest challenge is educating the public on how to properly sort their waste as they are leaving our space. With help from Sustainable Connections, we were able to create custom waste stations and signage to help the general public understand which was compost vs garbage vs recycling. It was lovely to see people stop, read, and sort while they were bussing their tables. A big win for the environment!” said Paul Kintzele, Facilities Manager for Kulshan. 

With funding from the City of Bellingham and Department of Ecology and help from the Port of Bellingham, businesses, and visitors, waste reduction efforts at The Portal will continue in 2023.  “Our recent efforts include adding signage about proper disposal of waste, and adding composting and recycling receptacles to public areas,” said Hansen. 

It takes a village – some could even say a container village – to make waste reduction goals a reality. 

photo credit: Maggie Kaiserman Photography

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