5 Features of an Earth-Friendly Outdoor Festival

5 Features of an Earth-Friendly Outdoor Festival

Now that Spring has sprung, and the sun has finally joined us in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s time to start enjoying some outdoor festivals full of food, beer, activities, and entertainment! These events celebrate the good weather with good times, but often have the tendency to leave their environmental impact out of the equation. Lucky for you, we have two great festivals on the horizon in Nashville, both with a major emphasis on sustainable practices: Nashville Earth Day Festival (April 18th) and Lightning 100’s Live On The Green (August 20th, 27th, September 3rd & 10-12th). Keep these five factors in mind when choosing which festivals to fall in love with!

1. Waste Management (Reduce, Recycle, and Compost)
Festivals are infamous for creating a considerable amount of stress on their surroundings… and the environment at large. If there’s one thing a festival is really good at, it’s creating waste. Individuals bring in disposable goods, create trash, then leave it on site, leaving you with that “not so fresh” feeling while there. There are three fundamental ways a festival can combat these problems: reducing, recycling, and composting (not the traditional 3 Rs, but close enough). Reducing is the easiest way to manage waste on site at a festival, but it starts long before the event kicks off. Research and planning are key factors in finding alternatives that would eliminate unnecessary waste from the festival infrastructure. Some good examples of this are: eliminating plastic, providing reusable water bottles, prohibiting superfluous paper advertisements, and setting concrete goals for waste reduction.

Recycling of plastics, cans, and paper are a must-have for any self-respecting outdoor festival. Did you know that in 2014 Lightning 100’s Live On The Green diverted over 12,660 pounds of trash from the landfill– a pretty significant number for a six day festival! Any eco-friendly festival will have multiple clearly marked recycling stations for commingled or separated recyclables. Put the plastic bottle in the recycling can, people! You can set an example by picking up recyclables off the ground and putting them in their proper place. You’ll be amazed how many people follow suit.

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Composting is the above-and-beyond waste management strategy for your friendly neighborhood festival. Re-purposing organic matter, specifically food waste and compostable food containers, is a great way to give back to nature. Give it a try at home too. Check out our past blog about using compost in your home garden!

2. Ride Sharing and Alternative Transportation
The simple truth is that festivals attract large amounts of people, and these people cause parking congestion. When an individual festival-goer drives separately in their own vehicle, it seems harmless. Multiply that by 10,000 and you have an issue! Carbon emissions, oh boy…. carbon emissions everywhere! Many Earth-friendly festivals have recognized this malady, and have put measures forth to encourage alternative forms of transportation. Partnering with public transportation (like Metro MTA buses), encouraging carpooling, and offering free bike valet are all features you’ll find at both Nashville Earth Day Festival and Lightning 100’s Live On The Green!

3. Sustainable Energy Use
Sustainable energy is the ultimate buzz word with ecologically-minded individuals, and for good reason! Sustainable energies could very well be the key to unlocking a cleaner and healthier environmental future. Festivals consume massive amounts of energy through stage sound equipment, lighting, projectors, and food truck generators! When a festival organizer chooses to use sustainable energy, the benefits are insurmountable. You might think that only festival giants such as Coachella or Bonnaroo, which implemented solar panels into their electric grid in 2013, are capable of such technological feats. But they’re not! Since its start in 2009, Lightning 100’s Live On The Green has made extensive use of energy-efficient LEDs for stage lighting, which limits energy consumption to less than 30% of an event of comparable size and scope! More and more festivals are incorporating sustainable energy sources into their grids, proving that it doesn’t just cut energy consumption; it cuts costs!

4. Eco Vendors
Implementing standards of efficiency for their food, beverage, and merchandise vendors is another simple but effective way to make your festival experience more Earth-friendly! Food trucks and beer vendors are some of the biggest targets for improvement. Donating used cooking oil for biodiesel, eliminating plastic disposables (and replacing with compostables or finger-foods only), hiring local vendor workers, and using locally-sourced ingredients or products are all efficiency standards that help make the festival as a whole more green.

Another great trend taking root at many festivals is free communal drinking water, so participants can refill their own reusable bottles. This is a great way to cut down on plastic, cut down on trash/recycling costs, and is also a wonderful opportunity for vendor branding (by handing out or selling logo’d bottles)! Earth-friendly festivals will also attract sustainability-conscious sponsors, like Bridgestone Americas, and feature local businesses and organizations that contribute to the community’s environmental awareness efforts, like Nashville’s own Walk/Bike Nashville, Clean Air Partnership, Cumberland River Compact, Hands On Nashville, Nashville B-cycle, and more!

5. Proactive Audience Mentality
However, there is only so much a festival can do by itself. All the infrastructure can be put in place, but in the end the audience makes the biggest difference. Lightning 100’s Live On The Green and Nashville Earth Day Festival both make stage announcements encouraging festival-goers to recycle, but it’s up to YOU to decide to listen. Fortunately, the proactive “leave it better than when you came” mentality is taking root, especially in Nashville, and many festival-goers are supporting the cause.

Remember, festivals absorb the costs of cleaning up, and have to pass those costs onto you, the participants, by raising ticket prices or cutting back on entertainment features. When you help with the clean-up efforts throughout the festival, you help reduce the overall cost and improve the quality of the festival for next year! So, the next time you go to a festival, be a part of the solution, especially if the festival is FREE, like Nashville Earth Day Festival and Lightning 100’s Live On The Green! If one of your favorite festivals could use improvements in their Earth-friendliness, send a friendly comment to the festival organizers or interact with them on social media to let them know it’s a change you’d like to see!

-Taylor (Team Green’s Spring Intern)

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