Since the days of Woodstock, music festivals have symbolized equality, creativity, and peace. They’re a venue for sharing ideas, passions, and experiences. Though centered around music, the ultimate message is that a group of strangers are able to share a moment in time where everyone is united by an appreciation for the greater things in life. While the majority of festivals and their attendees still revolve around this mindset, some events in recent years have given the festival culture a bad name. From substance abuse to violence and all issues related, there is a growing stigma that people are attending festivals with the wrong intentions and are disregarding their sacred history. While behavior is individual and an unfair basis for generalizing a demographic, there is some hard evidence that the festival culture has, in some part, taken a turn for the worst. Case in point:
You see, being that a majority of festivals take place outdoors, the love and appreciation celebrated at the events is just as much about the land as it is the music. It used to be that this concept was second-nature, and the festival veterans didn’t need to be reminded of the age-old mantra “leave it better than you found it.” Today, between cigarette butts and solo cups, glow sticks and styrofoam coolers, festival grounds have become a party wasteland. I wonder how many of those who consider themselves a new wave of the Woodstock scene would feel a pang of self-consciousness after seeing what they and their friends did to the Mother Earth they sing along to songs about.
But there’s good news! Festival season is still in its grand beginnings and the issue of waste is SO incredibly solvable. A lot of festivals are already committed to greening their event and have an entire staff dedicated to ensuring the week/weekend runs smoothly. The Hudson Project, aside from providing local, organic food and beverage vendors for its patrons, will also be promoting a returnable program, where guests are encouraged to pick up trash, recyclables, and cigarette butts anywhere they see them littered, and return the waste to an onsite facility in exchange for points. Points are then redeemed for prizes as valuable as passes to next year’s show! I’m actually in the midst of preparing for this festival myself, and I want to share with you some tips for packing that will make your experience enjoyable and eco-friendly. Here’s what I always bring to festivals (or concerts and camping trips in general).
- Biodegradable beauty products including toothpaste, soap, and shave gel; some festivals go on for four days or more…it’s not a top priority to look camera ready but you don’t have to completely neglect your hygiene. Whether in the woods or a field chances are the venue won’t have facilities like showers or sinks. If all you have is a cup of water you should always make sure what you pour out of it is earth-friendly!
- Sunscreen; chances are you’ll be too busy dancing to remember that the sun you’re basking in can still cause damage, no matter how much fun you’re having. And when you’re exposed for several days in a row it’s likely you won’t even notice any burn or irritation until after the fact. Stay protected and apply liberally and often! Even if you’re “glamping” no air mattress can mask the pain of a burn.
- Comfortable shoes: if you’re not a fan of sneakers, at least wear a pair of sandals that are comfy AND supportive. Even if you’re doing your part to keep the ground clean not everyone is taking that initiative. Glass and aluminum are not things you want stuck in your toes, not matter how badly you’re itching to be a barefoot flower child.
- Plates/bowls/utensils; whether recyclable or reusable, bringing these household necessities will keep you from buying pre-packaged foods that contribute to more waste, and are likely less healthy. If you have a grill/griddle/hot plate then why not make some delicious cuisine? You’ll need to stock up on nutrients anyway, since you’ll be sweating it all off in the front row.
- Water bottle; most festivals, especially in the middle of the summer, will provide water re-fill stations, as they should. Between the heat and the sun and the dancing, dehydration is a serious risk. You should drink even more water than you usually do, and you should be doing so via a reusable bottle. Don’t spend money on a new plastic bottle every time you’re thirsty. Just make sure it’s BPA-free, and you should be able to find an affordable canteen you can use after the festival too.
- Solar chargers; yes, they got by just fine at Woodstock without cell phones, but let’s face it, you’re going to want to take some pictures. At the very least cell phones can serve their intended purpose of keeping in touch. When the buddy system fails, you’ll want to locate your friends among the thousands of other festival goers. Keep your device juiced up and stay safe.
- TRASH BAGS. TRASH BAGS. TRASH BAGS. DO NOT LEAVE ANYTHING BEHIND! Even if you’re rushing from set to set, take a minute to keep the waste off the ground. Bring clear bags for recyclables and make sorting at the end of the festival that much easier.
Last but not least make sure you’re dressed comfortably, without sacrificing style: