ROTHBURY: Festival Also Sets Sights on Food and Waste

rothbury sherwood forest at night

A world record was broken on July 4th at the inaugural ROTHBURY music festival in Michigan. And no, the record had nothing to do with the world’s stinkiest hippie, or the world’s longest guitar solo. The record-setting happened early on in the four-day festival when a canned food sculpture, designed by Architect John Brittingham and his graduate students at Montana State University, set the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest canned food sculpture.

Brittingham and his students used 45,725 cans of food to build a sculpture of an open hand reaching out to another hand to receive a can of food. All of the cans of food used in the sculpture were donated by Whole Foods Market (though I should mention, that upon closer inspection, virtually all of the cans actually carried the Wild Oats label – a Colorado-based natural grocery chain that was purchased by Whole Foods in 2007). Cynicism aside, the sculpture was just one of several features of this 4-day music festival that focused on social causes, critical environmental thinking, and concerted eco-political action.

The cans from the sculpture were then donated to ROTHBURY’s Food Drive, which collected an additional 16,344 lbs of food via festival attendee donations. Festival promoters worked with the non-profit Conscious Alliance – an organization that has successfully collected and distributed over 500,000 pounds of non-perishable food donations to local food pantries and impoverished communities across the United States, through collaborations with musicians such as String Cheese Incident, STS9, Dave Matthews Band, Jack Johnson, Phil Lesh and many others. All of the food collected at the festival (a combined total of approximately 66,000 lbs.) went to benefit local Michigan food pantries.

Greening efforts were extensive throughout the 4-day music festival in Michigan. More than 500 Green Team volunteers manned compost/recycling/landfill stations throughout the site and sorted through collected materials to keep the event “as near zero-waste as possible.” All of the beer cups (500,000 of them), forks, spoons, and plates were made from corn and were compostable.

Festival officials are pleased with the greening effort but recognize there is room for improvement. Sarah Haynes, ROTHBURY’s green chief said, “In every decision we made, we asked how can we get to zero waste, or as close to it as possible.” Haynes, an environmental consultant hired on by event organizers, Madison House and AEG Live, said they tried to dig deep and not take the easy way out when it came to the difficult logistics of greening an event of this size.

“We’re looking forward to the conversation about what more we can do. We think we were pretty creative this year, but I’m sure there’s more,” said Haynes.

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Photo Credits: 1. Jeff Kravitz; 2.Tim Hurst; 3. & 4. Michael Weintraub

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