Menus Subscribe Search

Follow us


Music Festivals Offering a Greener Listening Experience

• April 16, 2010 • 9:00 AM

Music festivals, like the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, provide a model for reducing the carbon footprint of large events.

When you put thousands of people in one place, whether for the Republican National Convention or Bonnaroo, things are bound to get ugly — for the environment, that is. Between the energy employed to power sound equipment, the paper products used to feed the masses and the water bottles necessary to keep people hydrated, concerts and political rallies are hardly climate-friendly events. And that’s not even taking into account the fuel it takes to get attendees, staff or performers to the venue.

Although some assemblies, like President Obama’s inauguration, have been criticized for doing relatively little to offset their impact on the environment, in recent years the mantle of eco-consciousness has been taken up by musicians and politicians alike.

This year, music festivals may provide valuable clues as to how large gatherings can offset their carbon emissions without sacrificing the lights and glamour that draw crowds (and profits) in the first place.

The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio, Calif., this weekend is just one example of the environmental ethos of the 2010 festival season. The three-day jamboree, which last year attracted more than 160,000 guests, boasts numerous green initiatives, ranging from “Carpoolchella,” which rewards a few lucky carpooling concertgoers with VIP access to Coachella for life, to the Energy Factory’s “Sweatshop Mixer,” a chance for aspiring DJs to perform people-powered 30-minute sets.

At an event known for heat exhaustion and dehydration — in 1999, temperatures reached 120 degrees — keeping a crowd hydrated (but not swimming in disposable water bottles) is a tall order.

Coachella takes a two-pronged approach: one, provide incentives for recycling, and two, sell reusable water bottles. To encourage people to pick up trash, the promoters, since 2007, have teamed up with Los Angeles-based nonprofit Global Inheritance to offer thirsty attendees one free icy cold water bottle for every 10 empty bottles they turn in for recycling. And to promote reuse, Coachella sells souvenir water bottles that can be refilled at water stations throughout the venue for free.

The Sasquatch! Music Festival at the Gorge Amphitheater in Washington state is another gathering-gone-green. It has paired up with Esurance to offer carpooling incentives; in 2009, this partnership brought recycling to the venue, keeping 4.5 tons of waste out of landfills.

For 2010, Sasquatch! has been certified carbon neutral by Carbon Harmony, a clean-energy consulting firm. It will be 100 percent wind-powered, and Carbon Harmony will offset the greenhouse gas emissions the event produces by funding methane collection and combustion projects in the Pacific Northwest that convert methane gas from animal waste into clean electricity.

As likely a candidate as any to go green, given its location, San Francisco’s Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival boasts an “Eco Lands” component. What the program lacks in name, it makes up for in substance: The 2009 festival included a solar stage, solar-powered cell phone charging station, refillable water program and cell phone recycling drive. It also had a TRASHed recycling store where festivalgoers could swap bags filled with compostable cups or plastic bottles for Outside Lands merchandise, concert tickets, Odwalla juice, Dasani water and other treats.

Last year’s two-day Golden Gate Park takeover included something for locavores, too. The festival hosted a farmers market, and its prepared food came from Bay Area restaurants. The Outside Lands Web site notes that even the burgers sold there were made of organic farm-raised meat and topped with locally grown lettuce and tomato.

These standouts are hardly alone. Explicitly green music festivals include Chicago’s Green Music Fest and Project 30-90 in New Orleans, both set to take place this year. And festival circuit staple Bonnaroo boasts a “greening” page, too, as does 2010 returnee Lillith Fair.

The economic climate may have postponed the super-sustainable Rothbury Festival, but eco-friendly politicians up for re-election in November might want to look at the music-festival model before they plan rallies to discuss their plans for improving it.

Elisabeth Best
Former Miller-McCune Fellow Elisabeth Best is currently pursuing a Masters of Pacific International Affairs at the University of California, San Diego School of International Relations and Pacific Studies, where she is the editor in chief of the Journal of International Policy Solutions. She graduated from UC Santa Barbara in June 2009 with a BA in global studies and a minor in professional editing. As an undergraduate, she wrote for The GW Hatchet and Coastlines magazine and hosted “The Backseat” on WRGW.

More From Elisabeth Best

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

October 23 • 4:00 PM

Of Course Marijuana Addiction Exists

The polarized legalization debate leads to exaggerated claims and denials about pot’s potential harms. The truth lies somewhere in between.


October 23 • 2:00 PM

American Companies Are Getting Way Too Cozy With the National Security Agency

Newly released documents describe “contractual relationships” between the NSA and U.S. companies, as well as undercover operatives.


October 23 • 12:00 PM

The Man Who’s Quantifying New York City

Noah Davis talks to the proprietor of I Quant NY. His methodology: a little something called “addition.”


October 23 • 11:02 AM

Earliest High-Altitude Settlements Found in Peru

Discovery suggests humans adapted to high altitude faster than previously thought.


October 23 • 10:00 AM

The Psychology of Bribery and Corruption

An FBI agent offered up confidential information about a political operative’s enemy in exchange for cash—and they both got caught. What were they thinking?


October 23 • 8:00 AM

Ebola News Gives Me a Guilty Thrill. Am I Crazy?

What it means to feel a little excited about the prospect of a horrific event.


October 23 • 7:04 AM

Why Don’t Men Read Romance Novels?

A lot of men just don’t read fiction, and if they do, structural misogyny drives them away from the genre.


October 23 • 6:00 AM

Why Do Americans Pray?

It depends on how you ask.


October 23 • 4:00 AM

Musicians Are Better Multitaskers

New research from Canada finds trained musicians more efficiently switch from one mental task to another.


October 22 • 4:00 PM

The Last Thing the Women’s Movement Needs Is a Heroic Male Takeover

Is the United Nations’ #HeForShe campaign helping feminism?


October 22 • 2:00 PM

Turning Public Education Into Private Profits

Baker Mitchell is a politically connected North Carolina businessman who celebrates the power of the free market. Every year, millions of public education dollars flow through Mitchell’s chain of four non-profit charter schools to for-profit companies he controls.


October 22 • 12:00 PM

Will the End of a Tax Loophole Kill Off Irish Business and Force Google and Apple to Pay Up?

U.S. technology giants have constructed international offices in Dublin in order to take advantage of favorable tax policies that are now changing. But Ireland might have enough other draws to keep them there even when costs climb.


October 22 • 10:00 AM

Veterans in the Ivory Tower

Why there aren’t enough veterans at America’s top schools—and what some people are trying to do to change that.


October 22 • 8:00 AM

Our Language Prejudices Don’t Make No Sense

We should embrace the fact that there’s no single recipe for English. Making fun of people for replacing “ask” with “aks,” or for frequently using double negatives just makes you look like the unsophisticated one.


October 22 • 7:04 AM

My Politicians Are Better Looking Than Yours

A new study finds we judge the cover by the book—or at least the party.


October 22 • 6:00 AM

How We Form Our Routines

Whether it’s a morning cup of coffee or a glass of warm milk before bed, we all have our habitual processions. The way they become engrained, though, varies from person to person.


October 22 • 4:00 AM

For Preschoolers, Spite and Smarts Go Together

New research from Germany finds greater cognitive skills are associated with more spiteful behavior in children.


October 21 • 4:00 PM

Why the Number of Reported Sexual Offenses Is Skyrocketing at Occidental College

When you make it easier to report assault, people will come forward.


October 21 • 2:00 PM

Private Donors Are Supplying Spy Gear to Cops Across the Country Without Any Oversight

There’s little public scrutiny when private donors pay to give police controversial technology and weapons. Sometimes, companies are donors to the same foundations that purchase their products for police.


October 21 • 12:00 PM

How Clever Do You Think Your Dog Is?

Maybe as smart as a four-year-old child?


October 21 • 10:00 AM

Converting the Climate Change Non-Believers

When hard science isn’t enough, what can be done?



October 21 • 8:00 AM

Education Policy Is Stuck in the Manufacturing Age

Refining our policies and teaching social and emotional skills will help us to generate sustained prosperity.


October 21 • 7:13 AM

That Cigarette Would Make a Great Water Filter

Clean out the ashtray, add some aluminum oxide, and you’ve (almost) got yourself a low-cost way to remove arsenic from drinking water.


October 21 • 6:00 AM

Fruits and Vegetables Are About to Enter a Flavor Renaissance

Chefs are teaming up with plant breeders to revitalize bland produce with robust flavors and exotic beauty—qualities long neglected by industrial agriculture.


Follow us


Earliest High-Altitude Settlements Found in Peru

Discovery suggests humans adapted to high altitude faster than previously thought.

My Politicians Are Better Looking Than Yours

A new study finds we judge the cover by the book—or at least the party.

That Cigarette Would Make a Great Water Filter

Clean out the ashtray, add some aluminum oxide, and you've (almost) got yourself a low-cost way to remove arsenic from drinking water.

Love and Hate in Israel and Palestine

Psychologists find that parties to a conflict think they're motivated by love while their enemies are motivated by hate.

How to Water a Farm in Sandy Ground

Physicists investigate how to grow food more efficiently in fine-grained soil.

The Big One

One company, Amazon, controls 67 percent of the e-book market in the United States—down from 90 percent five years ago. September/October 2014 new-big-one-5

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.