Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Guest Blog: Leading the Way in Sustainable Festivation

The CMC and Planet Bluegrass are teaming up again this year to bring outdoor education and family fun to both RockyGrass in July and Folks Fest in August. Join us for slacklining and mountain safety relays or knot tying and Leave No Trace demonstrations in the family area. Beyond the music, excellent local food vendors and fun-filled activities between the shows, Planet Bluegrass also encourages voluntary environmental actions of individual festivarians. Enjoy this guest blog from our friends at Planet Bluegrass to learn the "10 essentials" of becoming a sustainable festavarian!

For Planet Bluegrass, a music festival isn’t just a multi-day concert; it’s a richly nourishing experience focused on community, inspiration, and stewardship. 

For more than two decades, the Lyons-based organization has been presenting the country’s finest acoustic music experiences in magnificent natural environments — the Telluride Bluegrass Festival; the RockyGrass and Folks Festivals at the Planet Bluegrass Ranch in Lyons; the music education of the RockyGrass Academy and The Song School; as well as intimate year-round concerts in the Wildflower Pavilion on Planet Bluegrass. 

Over the years, they have worked to protect these natural settings by leading the music industry in simple environmental solutions. Beginning almost a decade ago, the Planet Bluegrass waste stations (compost/recycling/landfill) were among the first to include trained staff to keep waste streams properly sorted. Telluride Bluegrass was the first to offer water in compostable bottles and the first major festival to discourage commercial bottled water in favor of free on-site-filtered.

Festival beverage booths encourage the use of reusable cups through cash and prize incentives, while food vendors are required to use only compostable plates and utensils. Meanwhile, backstage catering now sources most food from local Colorado producers, with most of the produce for the Lyons festivals now being grown less than a mile from the Planet Bluegrass Ranch. 

Planet Bluegrass has also committed to tackling the complex, evolving issue of their events’ carbon footprint. Beginning in 2003, they began using wind power to offset the emissions created by the festivals’ electricity, gas, and diesel consumption. They soon expanded the notion of “carbon footprint” to include the sizable travel emissions created by the thousands of festivarians, musicians, and crew converging on the Colorado festivals. These airplane, car and bus emissions — which account for more than 96% of the festival’s total footprint — are now offset using Verified Emission Reductions from a methane sequestration project in Illinois. 

The Telluride Bluegrass Festival remains the only major music festival in America to take such a broad all-encompassing view of its carbon footprint. These efforts have been recognized by Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, Jr. who declared a “Colorado Bluegrass Day” in honor of the “tireless work of Planet Bluegrass to protect and sustain the environment.” As well, the national radio programs “Living on Earth” and “Weekend America” have featured Planet Bluegrass as the leader in “sustainable festivation.” 

As Planet Bluegrass continues to tighten their waste and emissions impacts, they are shifting their focus to education and the voluntary environmental actions of individual festivarians. The festivals now incentivize simple actions before (adjust thermostats, ride-sharing), during (leave no trace camping), and after the events (renewable energy for home, corporate responsibility) using Eco-Punchcards. Festivarians who complete several of these checklist items are eligible to win carbon-free international vacations and other prizes.

The inspiration gleaned from sharing a tarp with friends, overlooking the cliffs of the St. Vrain River, listening to Sam Bush and Greg Brown makes a deep and lasting impact on thousands of festivarians every year. “We hope they take home memories not just of music, mountains, and magic,” says Brian Eyster of Planet Bluegrass, “but also of environmental stewardship — simple actions they can do to bring sustainable festivation into their daily lives.”

Ten Essentials for the Green Festivarian

Heading to a festival or event soon? Here are a few simple steps that will make your next festival expedition more eco-friendly:

o Keep It Real -  Any expedition has a better chance of success when the goals are realistic. It's the same with the Eco-Checklist. Do all that you can, but don't get overwhelmed. Have fun and be creative!

o All Aboard -  Both kids and adults can contribute to Sustainable Festivation. Involve everyone with your Green Festival Plan.

o Prepare - Before leaving home, adjust thermostats, turn off lights, and unplug phantom power sources.

o Precycle - Use reusables and recyclables when shopping and packing.

o Toolkit - Bring reusable water bottles for the road and to take into the event. Remember to bring reusable shopping bags for supplies and festival goodies. Reusable beverage cups, plates and eating utensils are also useful.

o Transportation - Walk or ride your bike; carpool; use public transportation, hybrids, biodiesel.

o Camping - Whether you're camping for a day at a Red Rocks show or overnight at a festival, embrace the "Leave No Trace" ethic. Prepare to pack-in and pack out, especially if your destination does not provide recycling and composting services.

o Composting & Recycling - Separate your trash and take advantage of alternative disposal options if offered on-site.  If composting and recycling are not offered at the venue, is it possible to pack your separated trash out?

o Share Your Experience and Ideas - Tell friends and family, festival and event organizers about Sustainable Festivation. Let's keep the ball rolling!

o Festivate, Learn, Festivate - We've learned at Planet Bluegrass that Sustainable Festivation is always a work-in-progress. Every year we discover more about how to reduce our environmental footprint. The same holds true for our Festivarian community. Let's continue learning and improving together…

Learn more about Planet Bluegrass and their Sustainable Festivation Manifesto at or 800-624-2422. Want to go to Folks Fest? Enter HERE to win tickets to Friday's show!