Three of the biggest festivals in the world can do it, and so can yours
It’s April, and music festival season has begun, your favorite artists are on tour, and big names like P!nk, Jack Johnson, and Fleetwood Mac are bringing the revolution. More and more artists are joining forces with venues in order to provide a more sustainable music scene for you, for them, and for our future.
Three of the biggest festivals in the world are hitting sustainability on many levels including vendor and backstage requirements, on-site action based sustainability, eco education and think tanks, and forward thinking legislative tactics. We picked Glastonbury Festival (June 26-29, Somerset, England), Bonnaroo (June 13-16, Manchester, Tennessee), and We Love Green (June 1 & 2, Paris) to CALL OUT for being rad.
Glastonbury goes single-use PLASTIC FREE in 2019!
Glastonbury is what’s known as a greenfield festival, and it is the largest in the world, with around 200,000 people scheduled to attend over the course of five days in 2019. The biggest news for any festival of this size ever is the ban on single-use plastics sold on festival grounds. Way to go, Glastonbury Festival!
History of the trash recovery program
After many years of growth in both the amount of area the festival grounds cover and the festival attendees, organizers realized they needed to build a sustainable infrastructure for refuse collection and an on-site recycling facility. A building was built, and over the years thousands of volunteers collected, washed (if needed), and sorted tonnes (literally, hundreds, thousands even) of festival trash. How? Waste and Farm Infrastructure Manager Robert Kearle explains it like this:
“To put it in the simplest terms, collections are made from each of our three types of bins – food and compostables, bottles and cans, and general waste – and returned to our on-site recycling centre. There, we hand-separate all the bottles and cans which are sent to be recycled appropriately, and uncontaminated food and biodegradables are sent off to be made into lovely compost.
It is absolutely vital to our operation because recycling facilities in the real world just aren’t capable of taking what the Festival produces. We produce a large amount of heavily mixed – and at times heavily mud-contaminated! – material in a very short and limited time frame. Without our own processing facility we would not be able to recycle as much of the waste produced as we do.”
Over the last 48 years Glastonbury Festival, organizers made amazing strides in sustainability and socially conscious collaborations, all while providing kick-ass lineups and entertainment for ALL people. They even have a circus.
Bonnaroo is focused on sustainability and civic responsibility. They are firm supporters of the Refill Revolution, and we couldn’t agree with them more. They make a special home for all those dirty butts (cigarette butts) most people throw on the ground. Trade in your used (and refilled and reused) bottles for festival merch, camping gear, and other fun stuff. Get educated at The Academy or attend a community dinner to meet other people invested in change.
According to their Sustainability Director, Bonnaroo is a festival of many firsts over the last 17 years:
“We were the first to require vendors to use compostable serving ware, we were the first major festival to install a permanent solar array on-site, and we were the first festival to fully close the loop on our compostable waste by composting everything on our property.
Over the years our definition of sustainability has expanded to include not only making the right decisions for the environment but also creating a healthy community for fans on-site; from free water refill stations, to a 5K run, to healthy eating options.” Kudos, Bonnaroo!
But this year, Bonnaroo is ready to tackle something we at PATHWATER believe in strongly. In order to make REAL change we must have elected officials on our side, and we must support non-profit groups that speak louder for us as a group. Without legislation in place to protect us from the billion dollar corporations that benefit from single-use and non-biodegradable garbage, we cannot win this war.
WANT TO MAKE A LASTING CHANGE?
Dang, France! We Love Green is EXACTLY what it sounds like-- a French music festival that completely revolves around sustainability and ecoconsciousness.
The founders of the festival want three things. First, they want to raise public awareness about timely issues facing us today. Second, they hope to have an impact on people’s habits. And third, they want to be a part of the movement towards change. We Love Green takes a multi-faceted approach to sustainability for today and the waves of the future.
In order to keep the festival as green as possible, they require all food services to provide a vegetarian option on their menu, “organic and locavore produce, ensuring 100% product traceability, and also in using donated, unsold produce.”
James Keith reviewed the 2018 festival for Complex UK. “No glasses or cans could be seen anywhere; litter was kept as close to zero as possible with the use of plastic cups that could be redeemed for cash; bins and recycling points were never far away...you'll be hard-pressed to find one as conscientious as We Love Green Festival. An expertly curated line-up coupled with a supremely progressive attitude to the environment have made this an essential addition to our festival diary.”
And they have Other Stuff (than music)!
Think Tank Lab At the center (literally) of the festival is the place where people come together to exchange ideas about environmental innovation and talk about what threatens our environment today.
Within the Think Tank Lab fields are The Screenings, a place to “travel the planet through the eyes of various international directors and get a different insight into the world around you.
The Start-Up Lab One of the great collaborations at We Love Green is the inclusion of forward thinking businesses.
The Workshop The next generation of architects and designers use recycled materials to decorate the festival.
Where does Coachella and Stagecoach trash go after the festival?
25 different music events in California reported a striking amount of waste is left behind from each visitor. Festivals such as Coachella and Stagecoach in Indio, California, bring in a total of 400,000+ people EACH, and when the shows are over, more than 107 tons of trash is left behind. Of the abandoned waste, many are recyclable items that are never recovered and go straight to the landfill.
The reason that most of this concert waste ends up in our landfills is that the majority of venues are complacent with waste unless forced by law to deal with it. These establishments still have the challenge of paying for disposal of all items to be hauled out to a landfill and consider dumping cheaper than recycling programs. Despite Coachella’s efforts to encourage visitors to recycle with their TRASHed–Art of Recycling program, only 20% of all waste from the festival is actually recycled.
The venues that do have viable recycling programs that aim for 100% recovery have seen an increase in their profitability.
For instance, the Rose Bowl and Los Angeles Conservation Corp, where we’ve seen the venue team up with local nonprofits to pick up and sort the recyclables. In essence, this becomes a free service because the program uses the funds it makes from California Cash Redemption Value (remember you pay a deposit on every bottle and can you buy? That’s CRV) to pay for the workers to execute the clean-up.
Through the RACLA Program, the LA Conservation Corp teaches our local youth essential job skills and stewardship while helping local government, the LAUSD, and various venues divert recyclable material from our landfills.
It’s important for venues to also consider recent recycling or “foreign garbage” bans from China. These bans on sending post-consumer plastic beverage containers overseas for recycling have shifted over the last year, and are now changing our local recycling and waste policies to become stricter.
Municipalities are being forced to deal with increased waste and loss of recycling abilities. Essentially, we used to ship all of our plastics away to China. But because of lax sorting and minimal education on proper recycling, it became too much for them to bear. China was unable to use the plastics we were exporting for recovery because most of it was contaminated. We will soon see these pressures play out in the U.S. at festivals and music venues because the disposal of waste is getting more expensive every day.
The most apparent business solution for venue operators will be to shift toward materials-first sustainability initiatives so the cost of doing business goes down. Venues will be forced financially to sell items that move away from expensive to dispose of single-use plastics, and move toward reusable, truly recyclable (think aluminum, paper, and glass), compostable, refillable, sustainable packaging and containers.
Be that bold trailblazer and make the first move! For a truly sustainable bottled water option, pick up PATHWATER-- a closed-loop recycled product as well as the first reusable bottle of water at a saleable price point. #refillnotlandfill #chooseyourpath