Over the last six years I have personally spent a couple months of my life living at music festivals in the Midwest and beyond, some of which claimed to be "green" festivals.
While more often than not the festivals I attended truly did their best to minimize and recycle waste, it can become difficult and unmanageable when 15 to 35 thousand campers show up for a four-day music festival and bring with them an incredible amount of items that end up as trash, which gets left behind for the festival to deal with.
Rock The Green, a near-zero waste concert event, is leading the way to change the formula in a way that assists and educates the festival attendees on how to maximize their experience while minimizing their carbon footprint in the process. From my experience at the event yesterday, they are on the right track. It was one of the cleanest and well-run music events I've been to.
Veolia Environmental Services was the title sponsor of the festival, and did a remarkable job implementing the recycling and composting program. Staffed stations throughout the festival grounds ensured that materials reached their proper destination through a system of clearly marked and color coded containers. Trash containers on site were strictly for things brought into the festival by attendees, as everything on site was recyclable or compostable. MMSD will be taking the materials gathered from the waste recovery stations and creating milorganite from them, an organic nitrogen fertilizer.
Free filtered water was given away at filling stations, as was a reusable BPA-free collapsible water bottle upon entry. The food on site was local, organic and eco-friendly. Signs posted around the booths gave patrons information about how far their food had traveled from farm to fork, as well as how many local ingredients were used. This wasn't your typical fried-butter-on-a-stick event. With so many options, I saw some people walk up and down the line of choices a couple times just trying to decide what to eat. It all looked good and smelled amazing.
The concert started out with Milwaukee's own Evan Christian. The lineup also included Parachute, Michelle Branch, Fitz and the Tantrums, Ben Folds and The Fray. It was a well considered mix of talent on the mainstage, which was run by a bio-diesel fueled generator.
While I would have liked a longer set from Michelle Branch, that's about my only complaint. Storms threatened the event from the start, but held off until the last couple hours of the fest. About halfway through Ben Folds set was the point at which the sky broke open and the rain poured down, forcing him to close up his piano and resort to some a cappella songs and jokes.
It was The Fray and their hardcore fans that suffered the most due to the rain, but I must say it was an impressive effort by the stage crew and band for putting on their gameface. Despite the pouring rain and a very wet stage, The Fray went on and played an abbreviated but intense set for the fans willing to tough it out in the rain. Lead singer Isaac Slade took it upon himself to jump down into the photo pit and great fans in the front, thanking them for showing up and sticking around.
As the festival grows and matures in future years, perhaps a second stage might be considered, which could only help attract more people to the event. For that matter though, for the size of the festival grounds, it was a well attended day, yet very comfortable inside the fest. It was nice to walk around and not be shoulder to shoulder with people, like it is inside Summerfest. Cheers for everyone involved in putting on Rock The Green, you have so much to be proud of for throwing a world class event.