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RI FOOD & DINING

RI VegFest returns with plans for more vegan food, less waste

The two-day RI VegFest at the WaterFire Arts Center last year was sold out. Now in its fourth year, the festival this weekend will spotlight more than 85 plant-based restaurants, makers, artists, and retailers in the Ocean State.Carly Rae Brunault

PROVIDENCE — RI VegFest just keeps getting bigger, better — and greener.

Now in its fourth year, the annual event — set for Feb. 4 and 5 at WaterFire Arts Center and expected to draw more than 4,000 attendees — has partnered with Bootstrap Compost to keep most of the food waste and other materials used over the two days out of landfills.

RI VegFest organizer and cofounder Robin Dionne said she and partner BJ Mansuetti learned about Bootstrap Compost, a residential and commercial food scrap pickup service operating in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, from a neighbor who used the company’s residential composting services.

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They gave it a try and were so impressed they hired the company to help divert waste from last year’s RI Vegtoberfest, which was held outdoors.

“The impact it had was amazing,” Dionne said. “We had 1,500 people, 30- to 40 vendors, beer and spirits … and we did not even fill nine bags of trash. The year before, at the 2021 Vegtoberfest, we had 200-plus bags of trash.”

The RI VegFest will be held on Feb. 4 and 5 at WaterFire Arts Center and is expected to draw more than 4,000 attendees.Carly Rae Brunault

At this weekend’s event, stations with trash, recycling, and composting receptacles will be set up throughout the venue, and Bootstrap employees will be available to help attendees determine the proper bins for their refuse. All compostable items will be hauled off by Bootstrap trucks and treated at one of the company’s facilities, where it will be turned into a compost material that enhances the health of soil.

Dionne said vendors planning to participate in next year’s event will be required to use 100 percent compostable materials.

“Composting is such a natural next step for us,” she said. “I think that when you’re concerned about what you’re eating and what kind of waste and trash you’re creating — especially for me with an event this size — it goes hand-in-hand.”

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Igor Kharitonenkov, Bootstrap Compost cofounder and chief operating officer, said his company, which has warehouses in Johnston, R.I., and Everett, Mass., is “very excited” to work with and be a sponsor of RI Vegfest and to help educate people on the benefits of composting “and how it ties into soil health.”

Organizers of the RI VegFest have partnered with Bootstrap Compost to keep most of the food waste and other materials used over the two-day event out of landfills.Carly Rae Brunault

“Compost is the life-giving component that turns dirt into soil. Without healthy soil, plants do not grow, food is not produced, and carbon is not kept where it belongs: under our feet,” he explained. “By recycling food and yard waste, we do our part as stewards and partners in keeping the natural cycles going that power the natural world around us. Our compost, bio-fertilizers, and worm castings are all part of the mosaic approach we take to make sure we reach a zero waste and carbon negative future.”

Dionne said that several vendors already work with Bootstrap Compost and that others are eager to do so to help keep food, paper, and other items out of landfills – thus offsetting harmful greenhouse gas emissions.

“This is one thing that’s been missing at VegFest,” she said. “The face of composting is changing and Bootstrap [Compost] is more advanced than most composters since they have the ability to compost more and different kinds of items than other composters… We’re very lucky.”