Top 5 Music Festivals that are Going Green

If you are like me, you’re going to hit as many music festivals this summer as your wallet can handle.

We’ll be joined by hundreds of thousands of people heading out to enjoy great band performances. Of course, that also means hundreds of thousands of people eating packaged food and drinking bottled water (and other substances) and all the waste that entails. And let’s not forget the tons of fossil fuels burned just getting there.

Fortunately, many festival programmers and organizers have been working behind the scenes for years to try to mitigate some of the environmental impact of these annual throngs of music-lovers. They all adhere to the ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ principles at the heart of greening their festivals, but that is just the beginning. Most are upping the ante on green initiatives.

Here I highlight just five of this summer’s festivals and their creative and inspiring eco-initiatives:

1. Bumbershoot, Seattle

Bumbershoot is a leader in green festivals. To begin with, organizers have creatively applied the re-use principle by turning their old signage into new Bumbershoot bags. A small local business called Alchemy Goods turns old rubber and vinyl into bags.

All this is after the festival signs have already been used multiple times. First they print most of their new signage locally on 100% recyclable material using 100% VOC and solvent-free inks. Then they re-use a large percentage of the previous year’s signs for the current year’s promotion.

To power up the festival, Bumbershoot uses clean energy from Seattle City Light, a long-time carbon neutral energy provider. Its refrigerator trucks are biodiesel powered and its Northwest Rooms that showcase festival art is solar-powered. In addition, Bumbershoot sells pesticide- and sweatshop-free cotton T-shirts and has a vendor ban on Styrofoam use.

2. Lollapalooza, Chicago

Lollapalooza continues its eco-traditions this year with the Green Street area and Rock and Recycle program. In addition to great local and organic food, Green Street showcases retailers selling green goods, local non-profits, and solar cell-phone recharge stations. They only accept vendors selling sustainable, eco-friendly, and/or fair trade products.

The Rock and Recycle program works like this: every official Lollapalooza program guide has a detachable Green Card, which users get stamped at various sites and activities throughout Grant Park. For example, concert-goers pick up a free recycling bag at one of the four Rock and Recycle stations, return their recyclables, and get stamps as well the chance to win a free t-shirt. Green Card holders can also earn stamps for taking public transit, riding their bike, and refilling their reusable water bottle at one of the refill stations. Green card holders with three stamps or more have a chance to win a 2010 Honda Insight hybrid.

Like many other festivals, ticket-buyers have the option of purchasing a $5 carbon offset, called BeGreen Fan Tag. The goal this year is to sell 10,000 carbon offset tags.

3. High Sierra Music Festival, Quincy, CA

The High Sierra Music Festival is a 4-day community camping and music extravaganza. High Sierra actively promotes responsible camping, following the “Leave No Trace” principles. Visitors are given a bag for waste and a bag for recyclables when they arrive. Priority camping spots are given to sustainable campers and this year they have a cool, new incentive: the campsite that is the most creative, clean, and sustainable will be honored publicly on the last day of the festival and win camping gear. Daily finalists receive drink vouchers, late-night performances wristbands, Leave No Trace memberships, and HSMF gear.

The festival also partners with local farmers to divert food scraps from the landfill with its composting program and also teams up with sustainable companies like Bay-area based Clifbar and Colorado-based and wind-powered New Belgium Brewing Company in the Start Global Cooling campaign. Like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza, it offers the option to purchase a $2.50 Be Green Energy Tag to offset the carbon imprint of driving to the festival.

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