Written by Jack Zeis, ESLLC 2015-2016
Music festivals are kind of a weird place. Thousands of people gathering in a field to live live differently for a little while to the tune of some of todays top bands. It has all the prerequisites of a good time, one you’re not likely to have anywhere else.
Flower crowns abound as people come together to celebrate the beauty and diversity of life. They hug and reminisce over memories of festivals past. They share stories around campfires after a long day of experimenting with some very unique dance moves. And often times these conversations include topics of social change. Politics and “the man” are often discussed with much disdain in these circles and climate change is a topic of much importance. What most of these free spirits fail to realize is that the events that host these festivals they love so much are some of the least eco-friendly organizations around.
Let’s take a look at what goes into the typical music festival. First you have the venue, often a huge wide open space able to accommodate vendors, stages, and thousands of festival goers. This open space is often very remote and very beautiful, but the logistics of creating a small city in a place like this can have a serious impact on the environment. Each vendor needs access to power which requires generators and fossil fuels, they also require water which means tanks need to be shipped in from who knows where and eventually shipped out further increasing their carbon footprint.
Power and over-consumption of non-renewable resources aside, there’s another mountain shadowing over the “love the earth” vibe, trash. Every music festival produces literal tons of trash in their short time as a city. Beer cans, uneaten food, miscellaneous plastic bags, lost sunglasses, food packaging, posters, the list goes on. Often times festivals can’t keep up with the trash removal demand so they simply don’t, leaving it up to a few selfless volunteers who come through afterwards to clean things up. Festivals in the past have even chosen to pay fines in excess of $100,000 to avoid the hassle of cleaning up their mess.
Fortunately, things are beginning to change in the festival scene as festival organizers are feeling the “green vibe” of their festival-goers. Bonnaroo, one of the largest and most recognizable names in the festival circuit, has made great strides to be the greenest festival in the US. There’s even designated a team to work on their “clean vibes” at the farm. In 2015 they were able to divert over 100 tons of waste out of the landfill including scrap metal, cardboard, PVC, tarps and tens, and cooking oil. All of their plates, cups, and utensils are 100 compostable. And $1 off of every festival pass goes toward their mission of sustainability. And others are following. Another festival, Lightning in a Bottle, which brings in around 15,000 attendees annually, is upping the ante with stages made of recycles materials, solar power, and local food vendors with sustainable ingredients.
Lightning in a Bottle was one of the first events to employ A Greener Festival, based in the UK, a first of its kind organization dedicated to making festivals the “greener world” that so many of their attendees dream about. For $350 A Greened Festival will send consultants to your festival to lessen the environmental impact with innovations such as solar energy, composting, instructional trash bins, and they are even experimenting with technology capable of turning human waste into energy.
So before you dawn that flower crown and open yourself up to the “festy life”, make sure your festival of choice practices the “green initiative” you are bound to preach to everyone you see.