Making GREEN music festivals.

I’ve attended a lot of art events, and seen a lot of plays, this year, for educational purposes. Everything from Aidan Fennessy’s The National Interest to Stephen Adly Guirgis’ Motherfucker with the Hat. Not so much live music, though. But the weekend before last, I attended The Harvest Music Festival, in the manicured grounds of the Werribee Mansion. And for the second year of the festival’s existence, it was a very enjoyable day – minus all the teething problems of last year.

Back in 2011 when I blogged about Harvest [in this post HERE] I said I would write about environmentally friendly music festivals “some time in 2012”. So here it is: a post about a few things I have learned about making music festivals green.

Energy explosions: Glastonbury, Bonnaroo, Coachella, et cetera.

There is no doubt – music festivals expend a lot of energy, and produce a lot of waste. Many festivals, however, have been trying to reduce the environmental impact of us indulgent, spoilt music fans in the West, in various ways. The location and season inevitably dictate the nature of the measures. I’ll discuss one festival that has introduced fairly obvious ones. Despite being massive and well established, I think it’s still interesting to compare these measures to ones you have possibly witnessed and encountered at Australian festivals. Or, perhaps, to think about their absence.

The Glastonbury Festival in the UK, one of the largest music festivals in the world, has long championed environmental issues. Today all festival programmes come in 100% organic unbleached cotton bags, printed with vegetable dyes, and official tees are printed using water-based (non-pvc) inks. Only compostable or re-useable plates and cutlery are permitted. Cleaners use eco-friendly cleaning products (i.e. non-petroleum based) for toilets, and all traders are encouraged to use eco-friendly cleaning products in their kitchens.

A lot of the waste generated by the festival is recycled: cans, glass, paper, electrical and electronic equipment, wood and organic waste are separated and recycled “as locally as possible” (the Fuji Rock Festival outdoes all in the recycling department, though). 1,300 recycling volunteers make Glastonbury’s initiative viable – 1,200 of them work for a ticket, and the others for a nominated charity like WaterAid, Kiota, or Bhopal Medical Appeal.

And the festival is turning to the sun to meet energy needs (as we all should). So far solar power and green technology is being used for three stage areas, and all cafes, stages and stalls above the old railway line in the Green Fields are run on wind or solar power, as are the showers. They have expanded their solar capacity, too – Michael Eavis, Glastonbury Festival organiser, installed 200 new solar photovoltaic panels on the roof of a shed at his Worthy Farm this year (a smaller installation than the 1,100 panels that were installed in autumn 2010).

Other initiatives have included the introduction of biodegradable tent pegs to offer festival campers, as an alternative to metal pegs many festival goers had been using that endangered local cows. Only Fairtrade tea, coffee, sugar and hot chocolate are on sale (expect a future post on what Fairtrade means, in practice). In an effort to reduce road deliveries, reservoirs have been built to store water and food (all of the festival water will apparently come from the mains in future, and the water is heavily monitored and quality tested twice a day).

Being enormously successful, Glastonbury have been able to invest money into local sewage plants, so that Festival sewage waste can now be processed within a 12.8km radius of the site, and gives to green organisations – Glastonbury claim to be the world’s biggest single regular donor to Greenpeace. Finally for this post, they PLANT TREES – over 10,000 native trees and hedge plants in the local environment, with other initiatives to maintain a high level of bio-diversity in the area. Overachiever.

There you have it – just some initiatives to think about. I’m certainly going to make myself more aware now about the festivals I attend, and the measures they are taking to lighten the environmental impact of our emptying of wallets and fleeting enjoyment. Certainly there are things we can all do as individuals to not leave behind a bloody mess. My disability may be fuel inefficient (taxi rides, yo) but I can at the very least car-pool, re-use bottles, and put waste products in their appropriate place.

That is, if I can access the festivals in the first place – expect another post comparing festivals on that issue.

Back to Harvest.

This year Harvest featured U.S. acts like Mike Patton, Beck, Santigold and the U.K’s Crazy P  – I was mostly excited about Beck, having never seen him live before (last year it was the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, Mercury Rev and Portishead who drew me in/sent me away satisfied). Unlike last year, where I was awkwardly “danced with” by a lady in a kaftan and asked if I had drugs by some fellow who had clearly already taken some, I had a heart-to-heart with a lady in a kaftan who was high. It’s like the two previous “WTF” moments morphed into one this year. Something new though – a “What the HEY! Is that okay?” moment – I spotted a young man proudly carrying a Papua New Guinean bilum. I thought that was cool, though. Not so cool… man wearing Native American headgear. Reminded me of THIS & THIS.

GREEN-wise, there is room for improvement – although carpooling was advocated, standard recycling bins available, and free water stations (patrons were encouraged to bring an empty reusable bottle). Harvest will likely turn into an annual tradition for me – such an easy weekend of tunes, art performances, and (so far) “civilised” crowds, in one of the most elegant places in Melbourne.  The second last act I caught for the night was Icelandic band Sigur Rós – I had never seen them live before, but they left many as moved as Portishead had the year prior. I was also impressed by their fans, who parted like the Red Sea to let me roll right up in front of the stage, centre (wheelchair perks!)

The ‘Great Lawn’ stage where they (and Beck) performed was enormous, situated in front of the Werribee Mansion. It was used cinematically by the Icelanders – massive, filmic projections cued to the music, with complementary lighting effects, and a mini-orchestra. The experience was… moving, ethereal, and majestic, of course (it’s Sigur Rós). I’ll put it this way – the guy next to me said “…I’m gonna cry”. I think that pretty much sums up the experience ;P

Finished off the night with Santigold. Special thanks to the security staff, who were angels to me, and to Mzrizk for pushing my tired ass across the Big Lawn so I could see Beck, then went away, and came back, squeezing through the tight crowd to deliver to me a spiced rum and some swag. TOP lady.

I’m sure I will be going again next year – how could I not when it’s so near my ‘hood? Even though I am utterly broke now, and life is a glorious mess. At this point in the journey I don’t care 🙂 I feel so present. Am enormously proud of myself for coming so far in one year, in terms of stopping all the negative mind-chatter – that voice in my head sounds mostly like a really great, supportive friend these days, and my understanding of (and faith in) life, in the universe, is stronger than ever. Focusing now on the work I have to do and enjoying Victoria on a budget with my whole family, and friends, these holidays. Next festival to attend will be in January, interstate… more on that when the time comes.


Just managed to have the first genuinely relaxing & angst-free weekend in a long time (I needed it). Got some Christmas shopping done, caught up with family, chilled with my Sistas, Mama and Sister-in-law at the once-a-month Weaving Circle, & visited a new artist run space I will write about very soon. Also leisurely attended to some household/life to-do items I’ve tenaciously ignored for months. I can see my desk now!!!


One Comment on “Making GREEN music festivals.”

  1. […] experience I have had. Amazing. Goosebumps and butterflies). I touched on the 2012 experience in THIS post: ‘Making GREEN music […]

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