As summer approaches, so does warmer weather and a variety of outdoor events, such as picnics, BBQs, and the ever-popular music festival. For those who like dancing in the sun, checking out different bands, and eating from local food trucks, summer music festivals are one of the best options of the season. However, for those who value the environment and the proper management of waste, it can be a nightmare of uneaten food, discarded plastic water bottles, and mismanaged recyclables. For those events that offer overnight camping, the problem is overwhelming, as partiers often leave behind clothes, food, tents, and even sleeping bags. For some, packing up after a big weekend of partying can be daunting, and leaving the mess for someone else is simply too inviting. In fact, it is believed that 80 percent of the trash left behind at festivals is the result of campers abandoning their belongings.
Granted, blame cannot always be placed squarely on the shoulders of festival attendees. The fairgrounds or parks where events are located are also responsible for providing a proper number of receptacles, not to mention clearly differentiated options for composting, recycling, and landfill items. In the case of irresponsible campers, event organizers must foresee these problems and offer solutions such as tent-recycling facilities or code of conduct agreements for anyone buying a ticket. Although this won’t necessarily remove the problem entirely, it will reduce it considerably by increasing environmental awareness.
Waste Poses an Environmental Challenge at Festivals
For some event organizers, this environmental challenge has been met with full force, mostly because without some sort of solution, they likely won’t see their festival happen again. Anyone who has studied the issue knows that the waste left behind at festivals can be one of the biggest challenges. Not only do locals and neighbors complain and campaign to have these festivals removed, but a lack of attention to the waste can pose health risks. As a result, organizers have begun to use biodegradable materials for food, provide separate bins for recycling, employ more people to address waste as it’s happening, establish composting toilets, and force attendees to recognize their part in the problem—and the solution.
Not only do music festivals leave a footprint of waste behind, but they have other environmental repercussions. In order to keep the colorful lights flashing and electric guitars cranking, they need a massive amount of power. As a result, some festivals have begun to consider ways to utilize solar systems and wind turbines to fuel some of their needs. Among these impressive green policies are efforts to recycle everything from batteries to cooking oil to hot-tub water.
Group Works with Festivals to Protect the Environment
One group in particular, Clean Vibes, has dedicated itself to working with music festivals to ensure that they respect the environment and are willing to take measures to protect it. With the help of about 300 volunteers (who often receive festival tickets for their efforts), the company has historically composted 230,000 pounds of leftover food and sorted through mountains of debris at the end of the event to ensure that it makes it to the right place. While festival organizers used to be skeptical of this service, it has become clear in recent years that any good music festival needs an army of eco-conscious warriors.
In essence, these summer events are not just fun, they are big business. In 2014 alone, an estimated 32 million Americans attended some kind of music festival. This translates into major profits for everyone on the receiving end. And in that way, recycling and sustainable waste management are imperative to appeasing the millennials who typically endorse green thinking, and more importantly, to keeping those profit margins healthy. Just as the musicians, organizers, and attendees must all be kept happy and safe, so must Mother Earth.