It’s Easy Being Green: Music Festivals Add Sustainability to the Lineup

Read more articles from the "It’s Easy Being Green" series

Feeding, entertaining, and housing up to 75,000 people for three to four days while minimizing environmental impact isn’t an easy task, but organizers of outdoor music festivals across the country are finding ways to get it done.

Powering the events is one of the greatest challenges to putting on an environmentally friendly event. Bonnaroo, which is held each June in Manchester, Tennessee, powers its stages with generators that use biodiesel blends. Seattle, Washington’s Bumbershoot Festival uses energy from Seattle City Light—a carbon neutral energy provider—to put on its three-day art and music festival. It also uses biodiesel to power its trucks and solar panels for its Northwest Rooms that house artwork from the festival.

Providing food and drink for hungry concert-goers is another obstacle that festival organizers struggle to overcome. The High Sierra Music Festival, home to jazz, bluegrass, and electronica music, is held in Quincy, California. Its organizers partner with local farmers to send food scraps from the event to be composted instead of put in a landfill.

Bumbershoot placed a vendor ban on Styrofoam use, and found other creative ways to reduce its waste. Organizers turn the previous year’s signage into new Bumbershoot bags, as well as print most of their signs locally on 100 percent recyclable materials using solvent-free inks.

At least two festivals have also found ways to make green living part of the event for concertgoers. High Sierra makes responsible camping by the “Leave No Trace” principles a friendly competition, giving priority camping spots to sustainable campers. Starting this year, the most creative and sustainable campsite will be honored on the last day of festival and given camping gear as part of the event’s Red, White, Blue and Green Campsite Challenge. Daily winners will be given drink vouchers, wristbands for special performances, and concert gear.

The most elaborate of plans belongs to Lollapalooza, home of the Rock and Recycle Program. Each concertgoer is given an official program, which has a detachable Green Card that can be stamped at various locations across Grant Park. Stamps are awarded for various sustainable activities, including turning in recyclables, taking public transit, riding a bike, and refilling reusable water bottles at refill stations. All stamp earners have the chance to win Lollapalooza apparel, and those with three or more stamps can enter a raffle for a 2010 Honda Insight hybrid.

Read more articles from the "It’s Easy Being Green" series