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Trash Talks with Karp Strategies at the Annual IDA Conference

Updated: Jan 22, 2020

Trash Talk Panel Team Members Rebecca Karp, Monica Munn, Amy Lego, and Gerren Price (left to right).

Karp Strategies is psyched to report back on our time at International Downtown Association’s 64th Annual Conference in San Antonio last week. There, urban placemaking professionals came together to discuss topics from technology to connectivity to historic preservation, embracing the “Retropolitan” theme that encouraged participants to examine how to preserve cultural history while looking forward to the future. There were many great sessions, including one titled Social Equity, inclusion and the “Urban Renaissance” on navigating challenges around social equity in rapidly transforming cities that hits home with questions Karp Strategies is asking on our projects across the country.

Together with Monica Munn of Union Square Partnership (USP), Gerren Price of DowntownDC BID, and Amy Lego of the Greater Des Moines Partnership, Karp Strategies presented a session titled “Trash Talks: Approaches to a Waste Free Public Realm.” With an audience of around 70 attendees, we explored the broader context of urbanization and demands on public space that trickle down to Business Improvement Districts (BIDs). Pecha Kucha style presentations by the BID leaders showed how USP is tackling trash with business and consumer engagement, how Des Moines is focusing on marketing recycling programs, and how DowntownDC is turning to data using trash can sensors. Following discussion with attendees led to dialogue on everything from how to deal with the surge in popularity of food trucks, to specific climate and geographic concerns, to disposing of bulky items.

With respect to trash, here’s a few highlights of lessons learned:

Partnerships are critical, especially creative ones. Partnerships not only with waste management services, but also with businesses, neighborhood leaders, research organizations, and other local stakeholders are helping these initiatives gain real traction.

Try something and collect the data. BIDs can be a place for experimentation, and many are finding that pilot programs with a strategy to track progress have been effective. You don’t always need to be a full-fledged program to get the ball rolling.

Trash is hot. That’s not just a garbage joke. BIDs are seeing successes in bringing economic growth to city centers, which means more waste, and increasingly more urban professionals trying to find a way to manage it.

If these topics intrigue you, or you just want to talk some trash, drop us a line! Otherwise we hope to see you in 2019 for the IDA conference in Baltimore!


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