June 21, 2009

Green Bonnaroo: photo slideshow.

Music Festival for a Green Generation: Bonnaroo

A generation that gives a care—and likes to party.

~ Article via Will Morgan.

For only four days in June, a new, disparate and nomadic community becomes the most sustainable city in the US —perhaps even the world. This town comes in the most unlikely of forms: a music festival campsite in the middle of hot and muggy Tennessee. The popular festival in its eighth year is responsible for not only an eclectic lineup from bands like Yeasayer to Al Green, but also for doing for environmentalism what Woodstock did for our parents’ generation. Bonnaroo’s 75,000 temporary residents are encouraged to compost, recycle, walk, and reuse their water bottles.

Creating a sustainable city isn’t easy; it requires the participation of all its citizens, as well as careful planning from the government.  Due to these challenges, little progress has been made outside of the green community to use local products, reduce waste, and reuse resources. A music festival, of all things, has shown that the sustainability of our cities is not only possible, but is within our grasp.

Zero waste is the goal of the organizers at Bonnaroo. In order to get closer to making that goal a reality, they have made a few changes to the way they impact the environment. Waste reduction efforts have been lead by Clean Vibes, an event waste and recycling service, and their army of volunteers, who receive a free ticket to the festival for volunteering. Nearly every waste basket in the 700-acre property is attended by a Clean Vibes volunteer who helps the attendees sort their compost, recycling and landfill waste.

Composting waste at Bonnaroo is easy because every concession stand and food vendor is required to serve their food with biodegradable wraps, plates, cups and cutlery, all made of compostable corn (by Eco Products, a Boulder, Colorado-based company). According to Bonnaroo’s website, this diverts over 10 tons of waste from landfills annually. All of this the waste is composted on-site and is used as a fertilizer.

Compost is just the tip of the (melting) iceberg of greening efforts at Bonnaroo. 90 horses replaced 12 cars used by security guards at the festival (see slideshow, below). Furthermore, all 15,000 pounds of hay used to feed the horses for the festival is purchased from local farmers. Horse manure is donated back to the farmers, and used in the growing of local crops.

The reduction of plastic water bottles has been a major challenge for organizers at Bonnaroo, considering that up to 90,000 people stay outside all day in 90 degree weather (added to high alcohol and drug consumption). Water is in high demand. Wells were drilled on the property and water filtration systems were set up by thermos maker Stanley. The on-site filtration system has eliminated an estimated 80,000 plastic water bottles so far.

Bonnaroo is going further, participating in a revolutionary process that will turn 250 tons of garbage from previous festivals into building materials and park benches that will be used at future festivals and events. Much of the other building materials, such as lumber, is either recycled or logged and milled locally.

Organizers at Bonnaroo not only focus on how they can reduce their carbon footprint, but they also encourage the festival attendees to reduce theirs as well. Signs line the walls around the property reminding people to compost, recycle, and to pick up after themselves. 1,200 cans or bottles can be turned in for a Stanley stainless steel water bottle, which usually is on sale for $22. Those who forgot their water bottle and don’t wish to pick up 1,200 cans or pay $22 for a stainless steel bottle can purchase bottled water from many of the vendors for $3. This $3 charge alone is incentive to reuse and refill existing bottles.

Much of the eco-minded structure Bonnaroo puts in place serves as a promotional tool and as a device to educate music consumers. Bonnaroo attracts a wide spectrum of the socio-economic range, and in by doing so, the festival educates and enlightens people that may not otherwise be concerned with their affect on the environment. From indie urbanites to hip hippies, the festival’s ‘citizens’ leave being more informed on what processes are required to reduce global warming and their carbon footprint.

Every year Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival takes greater steps to reduce their carbon footprint and to encourage people to live a green life. They have shown in their efforts that increased sustainability is not out of reach.

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Bonnaroo’s Environmental Mission Statement
Bonnaroo is committed to investing the extensive time and resources necessary to be a leader in creating a sustainable festival.  From our inception, the festival has strived to make the most sustainable choices while maintaining the ultimate experience for the fan, setting the standard in sustainability and greening practices for North American festivals.

The Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival is committed to partnering with the fans, other festivals, musicians, and artists to affect change. To take our sustainability practices to the next level the festival is a proponent of behavior changes, long-term
investments, and the ripple effect of education.

Bonnaroo?s overarching sustainability principle is: local is sustainable. We will use this principle to guide our decisions for 2009 and beyond.

Our sustainability goals for 2009 include:
• Incorporating more renewable energy
• Working with vendors to source more of their food locally
• Exploring a solution to alleviate the number of plastic water bottles
• On-site Increasing recycling and compostable materials collected on-site

Become a Bonnaroo stakeholder, opt in when you buy your ticket. Your contribution will support the development and implementation of sustainable improvements in Manchester. We will report back each year to let you know what you?ve made possible. With your support we can continue to make the most sustainable choices while maintaining the ultimate experience for the fan, and setting the standard in sustainability and greening practices.

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