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The Future Of Raving Is Green

Article by: Troy Andrea

After every show, whether it is a single night at a small local venue or a four-day campout with thousands of attendees, people share experiences and stories about how the show’s environment affected them. However, who stops to think about how the event attendees impact the environment? From single-use plastics and campground scraps to generator emissions and decorative glitter, music festivals have the potential to cause irreversible damage to the environment and spoil the good vibes. Luckily, it is not too late to make some impactful changes!

While events are participating in cleaning up their acts to some degree, most are implementing sustainability programs for waste mitigation and general site cleanliness. Festivals like Electric Forest and its Electricology program, provide opportunities for volunteer members of its “Green Team” to scour the festival and campgrounds as they collect and sort trash and recyclables. The program is incentivized by an “EcoPoints” system, where participation is rewarded with points that can be redeemed for items as small as a free drink and as big as wristbands for the next year’s event!

Ultra Miami takes a more aggressive approach to environmental stewardship. Located in Bayfront Park on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, waste management and environmental education are key parts of its sustainability efforts. For example, all food vendors are required to recycle their cooking oil to be repurposed as biodiesel, as well as use sustainable, compostable food service wares to eliminate single-use plastics and styrofoam from potentially contaminating the bay.

On the ground, Ultra partners with Clean Vibes and Replenysh to not only clean up and sort trash, recyclables, and compostables but also to repurpose and resell materials for other local companies to use. Ultra also has an Eco Village where the area's most influential non-profits set up interactive booths to educate and involve attendees in local and national clean-up and conservation programs.

Setting a leading example for sustainable raving is Shambhala Music Festival in British Columbia, Canada. Its efforts go far beyond ground cleanups and non-profit partners — Shambhala is 100% powered by renewable energy sourced from solar panels and vegetable oil generators, while also placing a tariff on vendors who use fossil fuel-based power.

The Canadian festival has completely eliminated single-use plastics and cups by using only refillable cups and advising attendees to bring their own reusable cups and mugs for drinks. The entire festival food menu is also without meat, dairy, and fish; all food and drinks are locally sourced. And the toilets are composting toilets, too! This just scratches the surface of the efforts Shambhala has made to put the environment first, and the statistics speak for themselves.

Since 1999, Shambhala has reduced its carbon footprint by 90%. In 2022, zero waste was sent to landfills, over 100 tons of greenhouse gasses were mitigated, and over 10 tons of food scraps were sent to local composters to be used to grow food for the following Shambhala!

With inspiration coming from festivals around the globe, now more than ever is the time to advocate for change in our local music scenes. This community is filled with progressive thinkers, and with the right support, every event could be waste-free and even benefit the natural world. It can be as simple as adding recycling bins inside bars and implementing cleanup crews with a rewards program at larger outdoor events, to incorporating solar-powered stages and art installations.

All actions, large or small, contribute to the same goal — a mindful raving space where people help to take care of the environment. In turn, the environment will be around to take care of this community for many years to come.

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