EDM.com Spotlight

EDM.com Spotlight

Free Water And Recycling Efforts Could Change EDM Festivals

We can change the way festivals handle hydration and waste management

Music festivals have expanded worldwide over the past decade, ultimately becoming one of this generation’s favorite pastimes. EDM or not, festivals serve as a place of infinite expression – we take away so much from our experiences and it’s important that all festivalgoers appreciate and value everything a festival encompasses. Water plays a huge role in the festival scene, as the safety of both attendees and the environment is a legitimate concern. As the festival industry continually develops into the multi-billion dollar industry it has become, its environmental impact has spiraled out of control. The cost of water, both monetary and environmentally, bears a strong burden on the festival experience, and attendees should ask themselves about the notion of giving back.

Let's do some math - according to Mayo Clinic, women are expected to consume 2.2 liters of water a day, while men are expected to consume about 3 liters a day. Most festivals sell 20-fluid-ounce plastic water bottles (the equivalent of 0.591 liters), which means that each person should be drinking at least four water bottles each day. Keep in mind, these numbers are estimated on the basis of regular physical activity, whereas a festival falls under the category of strenuous activity.

I admit to being guilty when it comes to littering, but if you approach it on a greater scale, the damage is actually pretty extensive. These days, a 50,000 attendee-sized festival is considered "average," if not on the smaller side. If each attendee purchases four water bottles, that’s at least 200,000 plastic bottles that the festival now has to somehow deal with. In 2011, Glastonbury Festival estimated that one million water bottles were left behind once the event ended - free water would serve as the perfect gateway towards reducing these numbers substantially. Refill stations are great for refilling a Camelbak or a reusable bottle, but with the current festival season coming to an end, it’s important to address what individual festivals have recently done to help diminish our environmental impact, and increase our water intake.

Electric Forest Festival – Rothbury, Michigan

Electric Forest presents their own version of recycling through their Electricology program. With waste reduction as the objective, patrons are served compostable cups and materials along with trash and recycling bags that are freely distributed to all campers. Vendors are supplied special resources to help generate clean compost and recycling, in addition to anti-litter incentives such as signed artist merchandise and more. As a forester, you are able to earn EcoPoints through helping the environment, making it a win-win situation for both festivalgoers and Sherwood Forest. Electricology constitutes a fun and easy way of saving the environment while still raging hard.

Sunset Music Festival – Tampa, Florida

Planet SMF stands as a platform to help protect the environment while raving the day away. This past year, the festival partnered with Electronic Music Alliance (EMA) and showed attendees how easy it can be to go green. As an experience of its own, Planet SMF offers art installations and more so that festivalgoers can appreciate both the music and the environment. EMA maintains that the EDM community could be the perfect liaison in reshaping how festivals impact the environment. You too can be the sound of change by signing EMA’s Responsible Party Pledge. EMA is a non-profit organization of dance music fans dedicated to respecting one another as well as the environment.

Outside Lands – San Francisco, California

Eco Lands is the central focus pertaining to waste diversion of Outside Lands music festival, as it has served as an educational framework towards improving the carbon footprint left behind since 2008. In 2013, Eco Lands successfully removed 84% of waste throughout the festival (116.7 out of 139.5 tons of waste). Working alongside Clean Vibes Trash Talkers and San Francisco Department of the Environment, the plan of action incorporates a highly-efficient, refillable water program with FloWater. The options for refills include purchasing an OL stainless steel water bottle at the event or bringing a reusable bottle at home and purchasing refills from there. OL reported that over 50,000 plastic water bottles were recycled in 2013.

Shambala Festival – Secret Country Estate, Northamptonshire

Shambala Festival has really taken it to the next level and truly sets the bar of what all music festivals should do. Partnering with charity FRANK Water, the festival has issued a site-wide ban on the sale of bottled water. All festivalgoers, crew members, and artists are asked to bring their own bottles, Camelbaks, etc, as a way to ultimately rid the negative impact that plastic waste leaves behind. While a limited number of stainless steel reusable bottles are provided, their revolutionary Bring A Bottle campaign is the future of music festivals. Shambala Festival is also working with RAW Foundation as they have co-developed an industry-wide Making Waves campaign to promote plastic-free festivals.

It's undeniable that outdoor festivals will naturally face obstacles with respect to water and hydration at their events. However, it is the duty of large-scale events such as music festivals to represent an all-encompassing and positive atmosphere, both during and after the event. We take away so much from our experiences at music festivals, and being able to keep them alive is something all festivalgoers should contemplate. Over the years, these events have expanded from single-day to multi-day festivals, along with the addition of multiple weekends. The future of festivals is unknown, but we can ensure the livelihood of festivals by simply becoming more aware of our environmental impact. If all festivals were to follow in the footsteps of Shambala Festival, imagine the outcomes that would follow. Free water would adhere to the concept of easy-access, something that has always improved festivals in the past. Understandably, these events do generate a considerable amount of money from selling water bottles, but in the world we live in today, where our environmental impact is something we are consciously aware of, it seems unrealistic to continue with selling water bottles at events. Ultimately, it is our responsibility as music fans and humans alike to save the future of festivals.

Music festivals can implement similar environment-saving tactics by partnering with water smart companies such as Event Water Solutions. Initially responding to an environmental challenge in 2009, Paul Baker, owner of The Water Store in Orillia, aided in the decrease of waste from the Mariposa Folk Festival. Since then, Event Water Solutions Inc. has branched out across North America and has improved environmental impacts of popular festivals such as Electric Daisy Carnival, Lollapalooza, Governors Ball, and more.

Cover photo credit via You Deserve A High Five

For more information on ways we can improve our environmental impact, visit the EPA's Facebook and Twitter!

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