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Columns > John Whitler

Published: 2007/04/22
by John Whitler

What Happens to the Waste?

In the spring of 2002, I was planning my summer touring schedule and realized I did not have any money. How was I going to catch a lot of great music without any money? My first decision was to try and make it to a festival where many of my favorite artists were playing. I was relatively lucky that this was the first year for Bonnaroo and that Clean Vibes was hiring staff to help keep it a clean festival.
While studying environmental policy and management at Indiana University I was used to thinking about environmental issues in a more academic setting. Bonnaroo was an eye opener for me about the huge impact that me and fellow fans were having on the environment. I got to see the festival site before any fans arrived and see it the minute they all left. When I arrived I immediately thought of the farm my Dad grew up on and how pristine the whole place looked. When all the fans left I was struck by how many parking lots and festivals I had been to and not realized what everyone left behind. It took us over a week to pick up every visible piece of trash (~350 tons) and recyclables at Bonnaroo that year. From cases of empty beer cans to bottle caps and cigarette butts, we picked up the biggest and smallest of treasures that were left behind, not to mention some heady ground scores. Despite the huge mess that we had to deal with, we were dealing with some of it in an environmentally friendly way and 113 tons of aluminum, glass and other items were recycled.
Although I had to go back to school that summer, Clean Vibes has continued an aggressive touring schedule, thanks to the leadership of Anna Borofsky. I was able to recently reconnect with Anna B and ask her a couple questions about Clean Vibes. *JW: Were there any particular moments in the past that inspired you to start Clean Vibes? *
_AB: Well, CV started as a dept. within GNP, the company that put on the Phish festivals. After spending 2 weeks cleaning up Lemonwheel and being horrified by the mess that was left, I felt like I either needed to abandon the music scene all together as it seemed so in contrast with my beliefs, or make an active effort to change things…so I chose the latter. _
_One moment of reassurance that helped make clear why we should form an actual company with CV happened a few months after the NYE 2000 Big Cypress show. I was at a show at Higher Ground in Burlington, VT and a stranger came up to me and said You arent wearing your orange jumpsuit! But seriously, thank you so much…you made it so easy for us to recycle at Big Cypress that when I got back, I started recycling at home. That single statement was enough to motivate me for many more years. _ *JW: Are there any bands or festivals that really stand out in terms of their efforts to provide a more environmentally friendly music experience? *
_AB: Spearhead always makes an effort to recognize the power of a quick shout out to the fans to help with the clean up of the venue…and Michael Franti almost always grabs a trash bag and lends a hand himself! _
_Hot Buttered Rum, among others, makes a huge statement and minimizes their environmental impact of touring by traveling in a bus powered by veggie oil. Plus, on this past Jam Cruise, they took the time to head into the depths of the ship to the trash room to play a set just for the CV crew working on board! _ *JW: Where do you see it going in the future? Is there any chance of branching out to different types of music scenes? *
_AB: Well, we have always said that the greatest success of Clean Vibes would be that we are so successful in spreading the Clean Vibe and educating folks about being responsible for their own waste, that the company folds for lack of business! This, however, does not seem like it will happen anytime soon. Obviously our roots and our hearts are with the jamband community, but we have looked into branching into country music festivals, and other no music based outdoor events as these are untapped audiences and events that often need a dose of the Clean Vibe. We would also like to find a way to become a year round presence within the jamband scene, as I think our mission could apply to the scene beyond the festival realm. _
The chances of Clean Vibes being able to branch out are more likely to occur now than it ever. The attention to the waste problem in this country has recently been overshadowed by high energy costs and Al Gores Inconvenient Truth, but waste prevention and recycling have a positive effect on our energy problems and global warming. The manufacture, distribution, and use of productsas well as management of the resulting wasteall result in greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gases, which trap heat in the upper atmosphere, occur naturally and help create climates that sustain life on our planet. Increased concentrations of these gases can contribute to rising global temperatures, sea level changes, and other climate changes.
Recycling saves energy. Manufacturing goods from recycled materials typically requires less energy than producing goods from virgin materials. When people reuse goods or when products are made with less material, less energy is needed to extract, transport, and process raw materials and to manufacture products. When energy demand decreases, fewer fossil fuels are burned and less carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere.
So what can you do as a music lover and conscious human being do to help reduce your impact on the environment when enjoying a show? Drink Keg Beer If you have the option, buying your beer when served from a keg reduces the amount of bottles and cans that are used. Although some venues and festivals offer recycling, not using bottles and cans helps prevent the waste from being generated. Take Your Recyclables with you If youre hanging out in the parking lot before a show, take a garbage bag and a recycling bag with you. If you can take a few extra bags and encourage others around you to do the same. Keep your butt in your pants – cigarette butts are trash too.

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