Gone To Green – The Eco-ization Of The Summer Music Festival


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coachella cover MjaMes1408

Coachella, 2011. Photo by MjaMes1408 on Flickr.

Here at Krrb, we’re thinking and writing about the greening of the music scene these days, and what could be more green than enjoying your favorite band while standing outside in the sunshine, your toes wiggling in the grass? Yet so often, when we think of the outdoor music festival, we conjure up visions of massive dirt fields littered with overflowing garbage cans, junk food vendors, and excessive drinking, with a little music thrown in on the side.

Thankfully, the situation is changing, and festivals are getting greener by the minute. Some of the newer ones are even being formed around an eco theme. They have tabs on their homepages that read “sustainability” and “environment” and are on a mission to change the way we consume when we’re hanging out in such large numbers.

We couldn’t be happier about this, and to celebrate we’re giving shout outs to some of our favorite outdoor shindigs.

Eco Music Festival

EMU music

The Eco Music Festival in Snowmass, Colorado. Photo by Yann Rogers on Flickr

Why it’s cool:

The Eco Music Festival, or EMU for short, exploded onto the green music scene this summer taking over an entire ski resort in Snowmass, Colorado for July 4th weekend and filling it with an eclectic mix of jambands including bluegrass legends Leftover Salmon and the more electronica-style headliners The Disco Biscuits. There were also “adventures” like the Eco Climb-It Challenge – a 3000 foot vertical race up Snowmass mountain to help fund green education in local schools, free mountain biking, capture the flag games… the list goes on.

Why it’s green:

When you’ve got the word “eco” in your name, you’d better come up with the goods, and EMU does, big time. They planted a tree for every ticket sold, offsetting 1.2 million pounds of carbon dioxide. All plates, utensils and water bottles were fully compostable. They inspired the redesign of the traditional expo tent to be 100% sustainable. And, deliciously, food vendors offered up green menus that featured local fare and kept waste to a minimum.

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival

coachella by shannon-abigail-simbulan

Sunset at the Coachella music festival in Indio, Califonia. Photo by Shannon Abigail Simbulan on Flickr.

Why it’s cool:

This massive multi-stage festival in the California high desert near Palm Springs has been attracting close to 100,000 people over the course of three days to check out 180-odd acts for the past 12 years. 2011 Headliners like Kanye West, Arcade Fire and PJ Harvey, give just about everybody something worth waiting for, and the grounds are peppered with art installations, like the giant origami crane that doubles as a shade tent for the inevitably overheated revelers (temps average over 100 degrees!)

Why it’s green:

Carpooling is encouraged by awarding random cars (with 4 or more peeps inside) VIP credentials, the Energy Factory provided the juice for DJ sets via 18 people pedaling away on stationary bikes, if you recycle 10 water bottles, you get a full one free, and they even commissioned various artists to decorate the recycling bins helping to turn what can feel like a chore into a celebration.


iron and wine at bonnaroo 2011

Iron and Wine play Bonnaroo, 2011. Photo by Laura Fedele on Flickr.

Why it’s cool:

With headliners like Eminem, Neil Young and Arcade Fire, this southern belle (in Manchester, Tennessee) of the major music festivals gives her California cousin a run for it’s money in the most-bands-per-square-foot category. And besides the multitude of musical acts, there’s a 100 acre “Entertainment Village” where you’ll find a classic arcade, on-site cinema, a beer festival, a full on water slide and more. Plus Bonnaroo offers yoga classes every morning, to help keep the vibes mellow.

Why it’s green:

There is a major composting project on site, to ensure that the compostable utensils that the food vendors serve actually make it into a compost pile. In 2010, the festival collected 101 tons of commingled recycling. The greenest campsite contest is a big hit each year, plus they really take clean up seriously, with a 1000 member Clean Vibes crew that sweeps in after the last note is played and picks up every last butt, turning the 700 acre venue back into a farm again for another year.

The Warped Tour

warped tour alvin carrillo

The Warped Tour in Pomona, California. Photo by Alvin Carillo.

Why it’s cool:

The 16 year old Vans Warped Tour is just that, a tour. Which means that as long as you live in the continental United States, it comes to a town not too far from wherever it is you happen to be. It’s all about rock and roll with a little punk thrown in for good measure, so you’ll be headbanging with the best of them while you listen to the likes of The Devil Wears Prada and Less Than Jake.

Why it’s green:

The fact that this show changes venues almost every day presents a huge challenge in terms of keeping things on the green up and up. But these folks are so on it, they even have their own video explaining their green initiatives. So check it out and listen to what they have to say, in their own words:

Burning Man

Burning Man in Black and White 2009

The 2009 Burning Man, before he's set on fire. Photo by Michael Holden on Flickr.

Why it’s cool:

More of a communal cultural happening than your run-of-the-mill art/music festival, Burning Man is essentially an annual gathering during which, as the homepage describes, “tens of thousands of participants gather in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert to create Black Rock City, dedicated to community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance. And for the past 25 years, they depart one week later, having left no trace whatsoever. Each year’s creation centers around a theme (The American Dream, Evolution, Hope & Fear) and every person contributes in some way to the visual and sonic panorama that unfolds each year. The one constant? A giant statue of a man is built on a platform and then ceremonially burnt to the ground. It is said that you can leave the Burning Man festival, but once you’ve been a part of it, the festival never leaves you.

Why it’s green:

Amazingly, 40,000 plus people descend upon the desert, paint their bodies, turn their cars into sculptures, build stages and give performances and then disappear, largely without a trace. A testament to Burning Man’s solid dedication to sustainability, 2.5 tons of aluminum was recycled in the form of cans, 90 cubic yards of organic materials were collected and turned into compost, and over two shipping containers worth of non-perishable food was collected from participants on their way home and then used to sustain the year round crews. Additionally, the genius MOOP map (Matter Out of Place) compares the state of the post-festival desert from year to year and provides motivation for all.

So there you have it. What are your favorite music festivals? Have you all seen any super cool green initiatives that we should all know about? We always love to hear from you, so keep in touch!

  • Payton_vege

    Amazing write-up! This could aid plenty of people find out more about this particular issue. Are you keen to integrate video clips coupled with these? It would absolutely help out. Your conclusion was spot on and thanks to you; I probably won’t have to describe everything to my pals. I can simply direct them here!

  • Bamboo Sk8er

       The Greenwashed
    Ritual is event created by BambooSK8’s President Geoff Koboldt, brings
    together the action sports and music communities in a singular fight towards
    sustainability. BambooSK8 is the leading eco-friendly skateboard company and
    strives to not only promote sustainability, but also strives to inspire other
    companies to become more environmentally conscious. In addition to
    skateboarding, BambooSK8 has also organized a digital music compilation called
    the “Greenwashed Music Ritual”The Green Washed Ritual II digital music compilation
    features 10 amazing artists from around the world who have kindly
    donated one song each to promote sustainability.

    Check it out!