Itâ€™s starts with a small step. Thatâ€™s the philosophy The Duhks have adopted in making their tours more sustainable. During the 35th Telluride Bluegrass Festival, the Duhks lead a workshop at Elks Park on the topic of Music and Sustainability. The clear blue sky provided the perfect environment for Festivarians to gather and listen to the Duhks play and talk about what they are doing to Green their Tour.
In between playing songs and getting the audience to dance, the Duhks answered questions from the audience and talked about how the whole process of greening their tour got started. Fiddle Player, Tania Elizabeth, talked about how when she started noticing the amount of trash they throw away while on tour, she wanted to do something. So, the first step of greening the tour was to save all their recyclables until they came to a recycling bin to get rid of them. After seeing how hard it can be to save recyclables in a limited space like a Van, the idea for reusable water bottles came into fruition.
Other things they are doing to green their tour include- buying local and organic food, and stating this request on their Ryder New this summer is their use of biodiesel in their Tour Van. When asked if they make there own biodiesel Banjo Player, Leonard Podola, explained that they donâ€™t make their own biodiesel, instead they plan their trip out according to where they can fuel up with biodiesel. To find out where they could fuel up they used a map from www.biodiesel.org that shows where biodiesel pump stations can be found.
When asked about festivals theyâ€™ve played and how green they have been, Tania responded with â€œI think this is (Telluride Bluegrass Festival) is one of the greenest festivals out there.â€ We here at Planet Bluegrass appreciated the compliment and want to just reiterate how for us too, sustainability started with a small step.
To see more about how they are greening their tour be sure and check out the You Tube Video Tania made-
The 35th Annual Telluride Bluegrass included the most campers at the festival in a decade. With the late addition of the Telluride High School campground we were able to accomodate a few more folks than last year - nearly 3,800 festivarians. These campers were spread out in six different campgrounds around Telluride - Town Park, Warner Field, Telluride High School, Lawson Hill, Mary Ilium, and the Coonskin RV lot. This does not take into account the campers in non-Planet Bluegrass-managed campgrounds.
With so many folks camping this year, it was more important than ever that everyone make a serious effort in embracing the “leave no trace” camping philosophy. To encourage this behavior, we (with a lot of help from the fine folks at the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics) instituted the 1st annual “How Green Is Your Grass?” sustainable campsite challenge.
Festivarians nominated themselves or other campsites and each day we chose a winner from the stack of nomination forms. Congratulations to the 4 daily winners: Camp Run A Muck, Camp Liam & Lilly, Camp Soap Box, and Camp Tucson Revival.
On Monday morning, after the completed campground pack-out and cleanups, we chose the winner - recipients of Town Park camping passes for the 2009 Festival (these tickets that can only be purchased through an online lottery in the fall).
Congratulations to the winning campsite: Camp Run A Muck. We were very impressed with all the efforts of this camp in the areas of cleanliness, sustainability, and creativity. Including:
carpooling to the festival
purchased food staples locally
no bottled water or canned beer- all beer was served from kegs
used solar power for all lighting and electronics
using a three system waste station- compost, recycling and landfill
hosted 30 campers throughout the week
At the wrap-up meeting with the town of Telluride after the Festival, several town officials mentioned how impressed they were with the pack-out from this year’s campers, calling this year’s cleanup “markedly better” than past years.
We provided compostable bags to many of the campers (thanks to the folks at Eco-Products). This proved to be very helpful in encouraging sites to compost throughout the week. Next year we’ll be working to get more of these bags out to campers. We hope to have final waste numbers (compost, recycling, landfill, etc.) from the festival and campgrounds in the next few weeks.
Thanks to everyone for camping by the leave-no-trace philosophy. We heard comments from lots of festivarians that the leave no trace ethic was really taking hold - as they found themselves instinctively picking up tiny pieces of trash as they wandered the campgrounds. Well done, everyone.
It was great to see the discussions about sustainable camping at the Festivarian Forum both before and after the festival. The “green campsite challenge” has received well over 100 responses with nearly 4,000 views.
For those Festivarians attending Rocky Grass and Folks Fest, be sure to go green and enter the â€œHow Green Is Your Grassâ€ Campsite Challenge at each of these Lyons festivals. We’ll be offering on-site camping passes for 2009 to the winners at each festival. (Check out the details for the RockyGrass contest and the Folks Fest contest.
The press tent at Telluride Bluegrass was abuzz with the topic of sustainability. My favorite quote was from Craig Shelburne of CMT.com: “I have never heard the word ’sustainable’ so much in my life.”
Steve Szymanski stopped by the press area on Friday evening for a lengthy discussion about “sustainable festivation” with Daniel Costello, Program Director of KVNF (Paonia, CO). The 25-minute interview aired July 7 on the KVNF Midday Edition.
Daniel is not afraid to ask the tough questions: what does it mean to be “carbon neutral?” How do we really calculate the festival’s carbon footprint? How do the festival vendors respond to our sustainability mandates?
It’s an interesting listen. And as an added bonus, occasionally you can hear Tim O’Brien performing on the main stage, taking place just a few hundred feet away.
The weekend before Telluride Bluegrass, Planet Bluegrass VP, Steve Szymanski, was a guest on the nationally syndicated radio show Living on Earth. The hour-long weekly show - devoted to environmental topics - airs on approximately 300 Public Radio stations.
A taste of the interview:
GELLERMAN: Steve do you think there’s something about bluegrass music that lends itself naturally to the message and behaviors you’re trying to change.
SYZMANSKI: You know I do, but I really think our venues out here in Colorado really just speak to the beauty and the pristine nature of Telluride. Folks immediately get itâ€”I think its wired in that this is a beautiful place, we need to keep this place beautiful, and we need to preserve it. And so we’re lucky enough I think to have nature in everyone’s face all the time and so I think it’s been a little easier messaging around that because it’s just so obvious that this kind of environment is only possible if we take care of our event.
At the 35th Telluride Bluegrass Festival, along with their guitars, banjos, mandolins, basses, dobros, fiddles, and drums, artists went on stage with their own Sustainable Festivation Klean Kanteens. Keeping with Planet Bluegrass sustainability vision, no plastic bottles were used backstage, instead each artist received a reusable stainless steel water bottle manufactured by Klean Kanteen, a California company. These bottles were very popular among the Festival artists - making appearances on stage, backstage, at Elks Park, at the artist signings at the Country Store, and throughout town.
The system wasn’t perfect, but we held to our pledge of having no bottled water backstage/onstage. On the occasion when artists would forget to bring their bottles on-stag we filled a compostable cup with local water. - certainly an improvement over a single-use bottle of water trucked in from far away.
Abigail Washburn had this to say about the Klean Kanteens- “I’ve been looking for a non-plastic option for a reusable water container for a long time… the kanteen was perfect. I’m far away from telluride now and I’m still using it everyday.” (Speaking of Abby: check out the videos she made backstage at Telluride Bluegrass for USAToday.com.)
In the front of house, Festivarians had the opportunity to fill up their own reusable bottles at the free filtered water station. (Here’s a water thread over at the Festivarian Forum.) Over the course of the festival, festivarians consumed 10,160 gallons of water from the station. That’s a somewhat smaller number than we were expecting - given 10,000 thirsty Festivarians per day for 4 days. But this amount of water dispensed from the station is the equivalent of 3,387 cases of 16oz water bottles. Not an insignificant number.
Hereâ€™s to you, Festivarians, for helping reduce the amount of plastic water bottles consumed, and showing that drinking local is the way to go. To continue in the Drink Local attitude, choose to drink from your tap rather than a single-use plastic bottle.
We sold-out of our limited supply of bottles at the Country Store. They sold about as quickly as we could take them out of the box. (Oh, and nice job Klean Kanteen on the intelligent packaging: the bottles were shipped many to a box, instead of being individually boxed.) We’ll have more stainless steel bottles to sell to Festivarians at RockyGrass and the Folks Festival with our Sustainable Festivation logo. But it’s not the brand of bottle that matters - it’s the concept of reusing a water bottle. And for that, any water bottle you have in your kitchen should do the trick. Just don’t forget to bring it with you. Everywhere you go.
As we all finish up our packing for Telluride, here’s a short video of what we were able to accomplish at last year’s Festival.Â In just a week, we’ll be writing the next chapter in the (video) book of sustainable festivation.
Jambase.com, one of our favorite live music websites, has done an admirable job of covering the environmental sustainability issues facing the music industry through their extremely thoughtful and insightful GreenBase blog. Since April 18, 2007, the blog’s team of writers have been covering (and uncovering) the news, trends, and realities of our industry. As they have consistently proven to unafraid of calling out “greenwashing” even among the major music festivals, they serve as a much-needed watchdog in our music industry / environmental sustainability world.
And in the spirit of Greenbase writer, Jason Turgeon, who often ends his posts with a YouTube clip, here’s one of the acts we’re looking forward to at this year’s Telluride Bluegrass (their only show of 2008!)…
It took off because of very clever marketing that prayed on our ideas about health and wellness and beauty and weight loss and things like that and we were told that we needed to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate and drink 8 ounce glasses a day and so portability became really important and that marketing worked really, really well. It turned bottled water from a $150 million a year industry in 1990 to a $11.5 billion a year industry in 2007.
Elizabeth goes on to talk a little about the differences between tap water and bottled water…
“I think people really don’t know anything about where their water comes from. People don’t know whether they’re drinking groundwater or surface water, they don’t know what’s in their watershed and they just have a lot of questions about it and they don’t go and find out what’s in there and it’s really easy to find…”
As we prepared to mount our “drink local” campaign at Telluride Bluegrass, we talked with Tellurideâ€™s water treatment plant superintendent, Bill Goldsworthy. It turns out the townâ€™s water comes directly from two sources: one that begins above treeline high up in the Mill Creek Basin north of town, where it is collected out of Mill Creek into a small settling pond at 9,600 feet on a ridge just north of the Shell Station on the valley floor. The other source begins at 11,600 feet at the top of Coronet Creek, which feeds the Still Well reservoir, located at 9,500 feet near the Jud Wiebe Trail just off of Tomboy Road. From these two tributaries, itâ€™s a short journey to the treatment plant just west of town, where it is treated and then stored in two 250,000 gallon tanks off of Tomboy Road.
Though both sources require chlorine treatment by federal law, at the Festival we’ll be filtering out the chlorine along with other particles. Our specially-designed filter stations utilize a pair of reasonably-priced commercial filters to assure that the tap tastes even better than the bottle. The filters will be easily visible, along with a water meter, so everyone knows exactly what we’re doing to the water. And so everyone can monitor the scope of this change (using the water meter) away from bottled water.
This was the subject of yesterday’s“Notes from the Planet” email, but I wanted to reprint the bulk of it here since it sets the foundation for what we’re planning to accomplish at this year’s Telluride Bluegrass Festival..
#1: Getting to the Festival
We’re proud to say that Telluride Bluegrass has been 100% wind-powered since 2003. But, emissions from inside the festival grounds amount to a very small percent of the overall footprint. Close to 95% of the emissions are created by travel to and from Telluride â€“ by our crews, by our artists, and by festivarians like you. We are tackling this problem two ways: by reducing emissions as much as possible through carpooling, biking, or walking to the festival; then purchasing carbon offsets to neutralize the remaining travel emissions that we can’t reduce - say for instance, that flight from Ireland.
Thanks to assistance from our partners â€“ including New Belgium Brewing’s Team Wonderbike, Renewable Choice Energy, and Clif Bar â€“ we are committed to making the 35th Telluride Bluegrass the World’s 2nd 100% carbon-neutral festival â€“ behind last year’s Telluride Bluegrass, which was the first.
Many of you will be camping with us for four or more days. If done properly, camping can be carbon-negative with a very low footprint on the planet - no home air conditioning, no lights powered by the grid. In past years, sustainable festivarians have used solar panels to power blenders, meticulously composted all kitchen materials, or employed a small hydro-turbine to power a rotating disco ball.
In order to these encourage creative, sustainable campsites, we are working with Chaco and Leave No Trace to hold the 1st Annual How Green is Your Grass?Campsite Challenge. You’ll be able to nominate campsites in each of our campgrounds which we’ll be honoring each day, leading up to the selection of a grand prize-winning campsite which will receive our most coveted tickets: Town Park camping passes for the 2009 festival. Join the “green campsite” discussion now at festivarian.com.
We’ll be doing our part by providing compost containers at all our campgrounds this year. We’re thrilled to announce that this compost can now be processed locally in Telluride!
#3: At the Festival
We’ve made great strides in reducing the waste from the festival including compost, recycling, and the requirement that all vendors use only compostable plates and utensils. But there is much more to be done as we herald in the new age of reuse.
Beginning with water… We’ve been asking ourselves this question: why do we truck in bottled water, manufacture single-use bottles, and dispose of these bottles and boxes, when Telluride’s local water originates from a mountain stream which we can easily filter for all Festivarians to drink? We’ve decided it’s time to address this problem through locally filtered Telluride water and reusable water bottles. This starts with a “bottled water”-free festival stage. To accomplish this, we’ll be giving long-lasting reusable water bottles as gifts to all our artists. With your help we can limit bottled water on the tarps and in the campgrounds - whether through bringing your own reusable bottle from home or purchasing one of ours at the festival. We’ll fill up these bottles for free throughout the festival using filtered water from our water stations.
Reusable bags have finally found their way into our grocery stores, now it’s time they become the norm at our festivals as well. As a first step, we will no longer be offering plastic bags in our Country Store. Reusable bags will be your only option â€“ again, whether you bring your own or use one of our sturdy reusable bags.
Bring your own reusable… silverware, napkins, plates, vintage beer cups, water bottles, bags, tarps, etc. Find more packing tips at sustainablefestivation.com.
In addition, with the help of our partners Red Bird and Organic Valley, we’re continuing to move toward more locally-grown organic food inside the festival. This year we expect to source a full 75% of our backstage food from organic suppliers.
#4: Beyond the Festival
Finally, we recognize that sustainable festivation is an ever-evolving movement â€“ one with issues that need to be questioned, investigated, tweaked, and shared. To expand this dialog we are launching our new Sustainable Festivation Blog, where we will provide regular updates about our initiatives â€“ the questions we struggle with, what others are doing, and how we can work together to build the sustainable festivation movement. Check out our frequent posts and share your comments at www.SustainableFestivation.com.
Sustainable Festivation is about minimizing our impact on the planet. But it’s also about deepening the Festivarian community. A central gathering place for this Festivarian community is our Festivarian Forum at www.Festivarian.com. With over 1,750 registered members, this online forum is a friendly group eager to welcome in new Festivarians, share time-tested tips, and coordinate ride-shares. Together, we can make this fun, creative, and rewarding for all of us.
In the coming month leading up to our summer solstice gathering in Telluride, we’ll be including Sustainable Festivation Tips in each of our “Notes from the Planet” newsletters to help you plan, pack, and pass the time in these final days leading up to Festival…
I guess we’re off and running… I started typing a response to one of the comments to Steve’s opening blog post - “Welcome to the Sustainable Festivation Blog” - but decided this was worthy of its own post. Here’s Jerry’s comment:
…by some wave of a magic wand, Telluride BF is carbon neutral!!! I donâ€™t think in reality it works that way! You have only created some feel good voodoo; meanwhile thousands of tons of actual CO2 are about to be dumped into the atmosphere as well meaning (mostly) folks drive or fly hundreds to thousands of miles to the most remote place in the US and the big generators on the grounds run 18 hours a day!
We’re making a bold claim, so we’d better start defending it. Well, here goes my first response on this major subject:
Jerry, you’re certainly right to be skeptical about any “carbon neutral” claim - especially when it’s presented in a overly-simplified context without any backing. That’s the purpose of this blog - to hash out these issues in a public forum.
We’ve had heated discussions in the Planet Bluegrass offices all winter about whether this is the right approach. But in the end, we’ve decided that it’s better for us to do something positive now (carbon offsets) rather than wait a couple years for the definitive, correct answer.
It seems to me like there are often 2 problems with carbon neutral claims:
the scope of the claim (how big is the net you’re throwing over your “carbon neutral” event)
how you’re neutralizing the carbon.
In our case, we’ve decided to include both the actual festival (including any generators at the festival and the electricity pulled from the grid) and also the emissions created by everyone driving or flying to Telluride. As you rightly point out, these travel emissions are the majority of the emissions, close to 95% of the event’s emissions by our calculations. So for us to claim “carbon neutral” we need to neutralize these travel emissions as well as the emissions at the actual festival grounds.
Let me step back on the second point and explain that we’re not claiming a “carbon zero” event, we’re claiming “carbon neutral.” Some folks question this concept of “neutralizing” the carbon, regardless of how it’s done. I guess you have to accept that if we reduce emissions in one place (creating electricity through wind or sequestering methane on a farm or a landfill), then that can offset for emissions that occur in another place. If you add negative emissions/carbon and positive emissions/carbon, the two can cancel each other out or neutralize the “carbon equation.” Personally, I don’t think that’s a big leap. And it’s certainly the best way to address this right now.
We’ve opted to purchase carbon offsets to neutralize all this carbon. We’re again working with Renewable Choice Energy on this. Last year we purchased Renewable Energy Credits for this offset, but this year we’ve opted for a more direct “carbon offset.” We’ll have more to say about the actual carbon reduction project that we’re funding in the coming weeks. But our aim is to be as transparent as possible about this. We are trying hard to find carbon offsets that are as local to Colorado as possible, but that’s not essential to balance the carbon equation.
Obviously, reducing energy/emissions is the ideal (and we’re trying that through encouraging carpooling, more efficient refrigerator trucks, etc). But there are some emissions that can’t be reduced (flying in from Europe, for example). In those cases, carbon offsets are the only way to neutralize these emissions.
I suppose you could say that people shouldn’t fly all the way to Telluride (or that we shouldn’t hold the festival at all). We’re firmly committed the the belief that the festival is a very worthwhile, meaningful, positive event for a lot of people. An event that can deeply affect people’s lives (including their own sustainability practices). And if you combined that with a thoughtful, open approach to offsetting for many of these emissions (the ones that can’t be “reduced”), I really think we’re doing the right thing. At least in the context of the facts we know today…