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Eco-festivals

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Eco-Festivals are as many and varied as the people who put them together. There are many festivals that fall under this category with varying degrees of implementation of ecologically and environmentally sound practices. What follows are ideas for implementation in an Eco-Festival, from siting and energy usage to waste production and cleanup. There are also links to existing Eco-Festivals. This site is meant to be used as a guide for those wishing to organize an Eco-festival, or a source of ideas for those looking to "green up" a festival or event that they help to coordinate.

The Natural Step's Sustainable Music Festival Guidebook recommends having a 6-stringed approach to planning your festival. Their 6 stringed approach is:

  1. Strive for a zero waste event
  2. Use renewable energy
  3. Promote alternative transportation
  4. Collaborate with sustainable parties
  5. Foster an environment of acceptance and respect
  6. Promote societal change[1]


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Festgrounds.jpg


Site[edit]

When putting together an Eco-Festival, site is an important consideration for many reasons:

  • Energy
    • What type of energy is being used? If solar, consider location and how much sunlight is available there at a given time.
  • Ecology
    • Is the festival site an ecologically sensitive area? In this case careful consideration is necessary as to whether or not a festival should be held there at all, and/or what needs to be taken into account in the clean-up process and how the festival is run.
    • What is the ecology of the area? This can be integrated into the types of workshops held and education of interested festival-goers.
  • Public Land versus Private Land
    • Different laws govern large events on public lands versus private. Be sure that the right permits and permissions are obtained well in advance. Private land may require permission from neighbors and community before a large event can be held.
  • Expected Turnout
    • Fewer people means less impact, more people requires greater consideration and work to minimize impact. This holds for most, if not all categories.
  • Local Environmental Issues / Organizations
    • Consideration of issues important to the community/communities in or near the festival grounds. Local environmental and social justice organizations may be considered to invite for tabling and/or workshops. Local issues could be subjects for workshops.

Waste[edit]

Festivals almost inevitably produce waste - what is the question is how is this waste going to be dealt with, and how can it most effectively be prevented? There are many degrees of waste reduction, from basic recycling to zero waste coordination.

Recycling[edit]

An essential component of any Eco-Festival is inclusion of recycling bins for glass, aluminum and plastics. Those wishing to take it a step further may consider adding cardboard and paper to this list.

  • Human error must be taken into account. Oftentimes even the most well-meaning of people will place an item in the wrong bin. It may be necessary to sort through the recycling before it is taken away in order to ensure that recyclables are not mixed and that non recyclable items are removed.
    • This is a good job for volunteers: the Gaia Festival in Northern California delegates this job to their recycology crew.
  • Check with the local area's recycling center or waste disposal site to find out what recycling they will take. This may determine what bins are placed out and how much separation of recyclables has to be done.

Composting[edit]

Food waste is almost always a major by-product of festivals. Those seeking to divert more waste from the landfill may consider composting festival food waste. Composting of paper products and incorporating compostable plastics may also be considered. Some things to consider are:

  • Human Error
    • Make it very clear which bin is for food waste/compostables and what is compostable. Unlike recycling, sorting through food waste is a much messier job and the clearer signs are, the less this will have to be done. Possibly consider delegating volunteers to stand near compost areas in order to clarify to festival-goers what is compostable.
  • Unusual Compostables
    • There are now many plastic products that are compostable. There are also many marketing schemes made to confuse people into thinking that their product is compostable[2]. If using such products, be sure that they are compostable and that the site taking the compostables is capable of processing them.
  • Composting site
    • This will help in determining what at the festival will be able to be composted. Is the compost staying on-site? Is it being trucked elsewhere? Is it going to a facility that can compost such things as compostable plastics, mentioned above, meats and dairy products? Be sure to research this before to determine what will be composted at the festival.
    • On-site composting
      • Some festival grounds have composting on-site. This will usually mean that plant matter and paper products are "fair game" for composting, but harder to compost items such as compostable plastics, meat and dairy are not.
    • Large-Scale, Off-Site Composting
      • There are large scale composting facilities, such as the one in Sonoma County that will often take large amounts of compostables. These facilities can usually compost meat, dairy and compostable plastics as well as the usual vegetable matter and paper.
  • Bin placement
    • Oftentimes, composting bins do not have to be placed throughout the festival grounds. They can be focused at or near food vendors and possibly camping areas, if desired.
  • Compost versus Food waste
    • As noted above, not all food waste can necessarily be composted, depending upon the composting facility. Meat and dairy products are examples of this. At a festival serving meat and dairy, it may be confusing to festival-goers if only certain food products are compostable.
  • Compostable versus non-compostable plastics
    • Bioplastics are made out of a renewable resource such as cornstarch. These have varying degrees of compostability and care is required to ensure that the plastic is actually compostable and what facility is required to render it compostable [3].
    • Petroleum-based plastics are not compostable. They do not biodegrade under most circumstances [4], however many can be recycled. If there are both types of plastics provided at the festival this may also be a source of confusion when it comes to sorting waste.
  • Paper products
    • Paper and cardboard is compostable in nearly every situation. Possibly consider diverting paper towels used at the bathrooms into the compost. Again, be sure to make it completely clear what is and is not compostable and what is and is not a compost bin.

Zero waste[edit]

The goal of zero waste is to eliminate waste altogether. Usually "waste" will refer to refuse that would usually be landfilled. Composting and recycling are key components in making a festival a zero-waste event, as is providing reusable or compostable dishware.

Reusable Dishware[edit]

  • Vendors usually will bring their own disposable dishware to festivals for use. A few will provide reusable dishware of their own, but if the festival has access to or the funds to purchase a large set of reusable dishes, the festival can provide reusable dishes to the vendors for use.
    • One issue with reusable dishes is that festival-goers may either attempt to keep the dishes or throw them away. Some ways to avoid this are:
      • deposit for dishes - charge a small fee for the use of the reusable plate, cup, etc. This deposit will be returned upon the return of the dishes. The Whole Earth Festival in Davis, CA uses this method.
      • Dish drop-off bins - have bins or buckets around food areas in which the reusable dishes can be placed to be washed. Gaia Festival in Laytonville uses this method.
    • Resuable dishes also need to be washed. A crew of volunteers or festival workers can be employed to do this. It is important to note health and safety concerns, and ensure that the dishwashing crew is aware of these as well.

Compostable Dishware[edit]

There are many types of compostable dishes:

  • Compostable Plastic - It is very important to ensure that these dishes are, in fact compostable and that the label is not a misleading attempt at greenwashing. The California Legislature has worked to limit this through legislation [5].
  • There are many different brands of compostable plastics, with varying decomposition rates. Some will decompose in an ordinary composting system whilst others require more intensive processes to compost. Regardless, it can take anywhere from one to six months for compostable plastics to properly biodegrade depending upon the type of polymer used. Some companies that provide compostable plastic dishware include Cargill Dow/ Biodegradable Food Service, Eco-Products, Inc. and Plantic Technologies of Austrailia. [6].
  • Paper Dishes - Most paper plates, cups, napkins and bowls are compostable. Check first if the dishes have a non-biodegradable lining, usually wax lining is compostable [7].

Other Waste[edit]

There are many sources of waste at a festival, although oftentimes it is less than one might originally think. Some examples of potential waste that can be minimized or done away with are:

  • Wristbands - Plastic wristbands are not recyclable and are eventually landfilled. There are some options for alternatives. Databec and Zhongshan Haonan have recycled fabric wristbands available. There are also paper wristbands.
  • Decorations - Decorations can be very wasteful, but here there is ample room for creativity.
  • Outside waste - People going to festivals will almost inevitably bring in waste. One option for dealing with this is a "pack it in, pack it out" policy, such as the Oregon Country Fair practices.

Stages[edit]

One of the main components of a stage with respect to eco-festivals is energy. Where is the energy of the stage coming from? Solar stages and bicycle powered stages are both alternative energy options.

Lighting and Sound[edit]

  • Type of Lighting
  • Energy for sound and lights
    • Alternative energy for stages can come from many sources, as discussed below. Solar powered stages and bicycle powered stages are both growing in popularity.

Building the Stage[edit]

  • Consider materials for building the stage. Try to source sustainably harvested wood products.
  • Is the stage going to be a permanent structure?
    • If so, then consider the long-term impacts on the surrounding area.
    • If not, then how can the trace of the stage be minimized afterward?

Dance and Seating Areas[edit]

This is more to do with site selection than anything. Dust is a common environmental concern at festivals, and must be dealt with accordingly. Make sure that the dance area is not ecologically sensitive, as it will take a pounding! Key things to look for are mycelial mats and fragile plants. Dance areas are ideally grass. Seating areas generally have less impact, but also must be considered with regard to wise placement.

Workshop Stages[edit]

May be indoors or outdoors. In general, similar ecological considerations as performance stages. Placement of the workshop is integral to what the workshop will entail, such as discussion, movement, etc. Eco-workshops are detailed below.

Vendors[edit]

Vendors should consider ways to make their own enterprises more environmentally friendly, as they will (most likely) be catering to that type of audience, as well as benefiting the health of the world.

Food Vendors[edit]

Event organizers should strive to have local food vendors present at the event. Having local food vendors means the food does not travel far which means it does not necessarily need to have special vehicles that require refrigeration. Similarly, local vendors should strive to bring in foods that are non-perishable, so they can use less energy keeping the food fresh. Event organizers could even go the length to bring (local) organic, vegetarian, and vegan options to the festival.

Product Vendors[edit]

Event organizers should try to find local vendors that sell ethical products. Vendors who sell hemp, organic cotton, and upcycled clothing would be the most appropriate types of vendors at an eco-festival. When it comes to other vendors, it is important to find companies who make their products ethically. Whether they are recycled or fair-trade imports, it is meaningful to carefully pick vendors in order to promote the eco-friendly lifestyle.

Informational Vendors / Tabling[edit]

Informational vendors should generally be from various local and non-local environmental and political organizations. Most environmental organizations will have different issues they are more concerned with, so there could be a diverse mix of information available to the public. Political organizations should be brought in if there are important political or legal actions that the public could take in order to have their opinions heard. For example, a group with information about California's Proposition 37 would be able to spread information to the public, allowing them to stay informed, and (hopefully) use the polls for change.

Energy[edit]

Where a festival gets its energy from can highly influence whether or not the festival is sustainable. Energy at festivals is used for a number of different things including powering stages (speakers, lights, etc.), refrigeration for food, and cooking.

Solar[edit]

Solar energy can be utilized in a number of different ways at an eco-festival, especially if the chosen site receives a lot of sunshine during the day. Solar energy can be used for: cooking, hot water heating, refrigeration, and stage set-ups. However, once night comes, electricity may be need to be provided through generators if there is not sufficient battery storage.

Biodiesel[edit]

Local biodiesel is a good alternative to solar energy when it comes to powering electrical devices at night time.[verification needed] Local biodiesel could be from fryer grease from a nearby restaurant or vegetable oil produced in the town. Biodiesel produces less emissions than conventional diesel, therefore being better for the environment. [8]

Human[edit]

Humans can power certain aspects of festivals. Bicycle-powered stages are one of the most popular sustainable festival energy sources. All it requires is a handful of people peddling bicycles at a steady enough pace to generate all the electricity to power the speakers.

Water[edit]

Water sources and usage are an important aspect of any type of festival. At an eco-friendly festival, it is important to consider where the water is coming from and how much is being used. If event organizers are planning to use portable water tanks, they should try to estimate the amount of water usage, or base it off of data from previous years. [9]

Drinking Water[edit]

Drinking water is probably the most important type of water that would need to be brought in for a festival. Any type of eco-festival should strive to get water from local sources in large tanks that allow the public to fill up their own reusable bottles. It is relatively easy to rent portable 10,000-12,000 gallon water tanks that could be easily refilled if needed. Having people utilize reusable bottles would minimize the amount of waste from plastic water bottles.

Toilets[edit]

The good thing about port-a-potties is that they already conserve more water than a normal toilet would. Flush toilets use a greater amount of water than port-a-potties, so they are already considered environmentally friendly. When using port-a-potties it is important to remember to use greener cleaning products to keep them clean as it will benefit environmental and human health. Composting toilets could also be beneficial at an ecofestival, although they may cost more than port-a-potties. Unlike port-a-potties, composting toilets can be recycled on festival grounds and there are no waste transportation costs. Greywater can also be used to flush toilets in permanent bathroom facilities which would make a good reuse for the water. It is advisable to consult with a plumber as well as the event coordinators to decide if this something they would want to undertake.

Showers[edit]

For festivals that span more than one day, showers need to be provided and accounted for. Water tanks may need to be rented in order to hold enough water for the public to shower. Solar hot water heaters could be used in order to heat the water for showers and would be especially useful at festivals that choose sites that receive a lot of sunlight during the day. [verification needed]

Event organizers could also implement time limits on the showers in an effort to conserve water. 1.6 GPM or less low-flow shower heads could also be utilized. Similarly, charging to use the showers could prevent people from showering, thus saving water.

Toilets[edit]

The good thing about port-a-potties is that they already conserve more water than a normal toilet would. Flush toilets use a greater amount of water than port-a-potties, so they are already considered environmentally friendly. When using port-a-potties it is important to remember to use greener cleaning products to keep them clean as it will benefit environmental and human health.

Composting toilets could also be beneficial at an ecofestival, although they may cost more than port-a-potties. Unlike port-a-potties, composting toilets can be recycled on festival grounds and there are no waste transportation costs.

Greywater can also be used to flush toilets in permanent bathroom facilities which would make a good reuse for the water. It is advisable to consult with a plumber as well as the event coordinators to decide if this something they would want to undertake.

Showers[edit]

For festivals that span more than one day, showers need to be provided and accounted for. Water tanks may need to be rented in order to hold enough water for the public to shower. Solar hot water heaters could be used in order to heat the water for showers and would be especially useful at festivals that choose sites that receive a lot of sunlight during the day. [verification needed]

Event organizers could also implement time limits on the showers in an effort to conserve water. 1.6 GPM or less low-flow shower heads could also be utilized. Similarly, charging to use the showers could prevent people from showering, thus saving water.

Transportation[edit]

Encourage artists, vendors, and the public to carpool or ride bikes to and from the festival. Post links on the festival website to carpool websites, as well as websites like Rock the Bike.

Artists[edit]

Listed below are a number of artists who embrace sustainable living, spread the message of environmentalism, and/or frequent eco-festivals:

  • Willie Nelson
  • Ziggy Marley
  • Barenaked Ladies
  • Bonnie Raitt
  • KT Tunstall
  • Jah Sun
  • Sheryl Crow
  • Clan Dyken
  • Thom Yorke
  • The Dave Matthews Band
  • Phish
  • Jack Johnson
  • The Roots
  • Jimmy Cliff
  • Groundation
  • Michael Franti
  • Baka Beyond
  • Indubious
  • Cheb i Sabbah
  • Furthur

Workshops[edit]

The following are a few workshops at existing festivals:

Clean-Up[edit]

Along with consideration of site, how the festival will be cleaned up afterwards is also important, and must be considered well ahead of time. Site will help to determine the needs with regard to cleanup. If the area is ecologically pristine, a leave-no-trace policy may be needed. If the land is private, consultation with the owners of the property will help in determining what will be necessary in cleaning up. Public land also will have certain needs and requirements and be sure to check with the appropriate authorities to find out what is expected. In general, a good rule of thumb is to leave the site in the state that you found it, if not cleaner.

Examples of Eco-Festivals[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Brooks, Sarah, Dan O'Halloran, and Alexandre Magnin. The Sustainable Music Festival: A Strategic Guide. N.p.: n.p., 2007. Naturalstep.org. The Natural Step. Web. http://www.naturalstep.org/sites/all/files/MusicFestivalsGuidebook.pdf
  2. [http://www.cawrecycles.org/issues/bioplastics_enforcement Californians Against Waste. Website.
  3. http://worldcentric.org/biocompostables/bioplastics
  4. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0734975008000141 Aamer Ali Shah, Fariha Hasan, Abdul Hameed, Safia Ahmed, Biological degradation of plastics: A comprehensive review, Biotechnology Advances, Volume 26, Issue 3, May–June 2008, Pages 246-265, ISSN 0734-9750, 10.1016/j.biotechadv.2007.12.005
  5. http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/plastics/degradables/default.htm
  6. http://www.calrecycle.ca.gov/Publications/Documents/Plastics%5C43207003.pdf
  7. http://www.highcountryconservation.org/pdf/Letter%20to%20Zero%20Waste%20Party%20Planners%20-%20General.pdf Letter to Zero Waste Party Planners. High Country Conservation Center
  8. "Biodiesel." Fueleconomy.gov. US Environmental Protection Agency, 30 Oct. 2012. Web. http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/biodiesel.shtml
  9. http://www.agreenerfestival.com/wp-content/uploads/pdfs/StewDennyWater.pdf Denny, Stew. "Sustainable Water Management for Music Festivals." Agreenerfestival.com. A Greener Festival, n.d. Web.
  10. Gala Days: a Calendar, Directory & Guide to Every Environmental Festival In California 2002-2003. Bern Kreissman and Liane Breitenstein. Bear Klaw Press. 2002.