COMMENTARY: The Green Scene

10 Music Festivals That Are Serious About Being Green

Music fans heading to festivals this summer can rejoice in their green options.
© Getty Images

Planning a road trip to a music festival this summer? From the big ticket concerts to local barbeque and classical music events, festivals large and small are keeping their scenes cleaner and greener this year.

1. Bonnaroo (Manchester, TN, June 11-14, www.bonnaroo.com) If you"re looking to go big this summer, the eclectic Bonnaroo may be for you. With a lineup that includes Erykah Badu, Nine Inch Nails, Bruce Springsteen, Phish, Ben Harper and Wilco, Bonnaroo has something for everyone, including the eco-conscious connoisseur. Bonnaroo won the Outstanding Green Festival Award in 2008, and has a strong commitment to keeping the festival eco-friendly. This year Bonnaroo will focus on a "buy local" theme incorporating an on-site electricity facility, a bottle-less water program, a compost heap and a vegetable garden. And that"s in addition to their past practice of working with Clean Vibes to reduce and divert half their waste from landfills. By becoming a Bonnaroo stakeholder when you purchase your ticket, you’ll be contributing to sustainability improvements in the Manchester, Tennessee community.

2. Ojai Music Festival (Ventura County, CA, June 11-14, www.ojaifestival.org) Ojai is one of the largest classical music festivals going green. So if you"re not into tents, face paint and mud, the wine-and-picnic-chair scene at the Ojai festival is where you want to head. This year the festival has partnered with the Ojai Valley Green Coalition to make the event a sustainable one. They will have “zero waste” stations, plenty of areas to refill water bottles and a surplus of bike racks, and the food for sale will include produce from local farms. Plus, all T-shirts, hats and bags sold at the festival will be made from organic cotton.

North Carolina"s Blue Ridge BBQ and Music Festival features top acts in blues, funk and zydeco, and lots of ways to recycle.
© blueridgebbqfestival.com

3. Blue Ridge BBQ and Music Festival (Tyron, NC, June 12-13 www.blueridgebbqfestival.com). If you"re into the blue side of the green scene, you may want to pack your bags for North Carolina to attend the annual Blue Ridge BBQ and Music Festival. This blues festival will kick off with a farm-to-table gala on June 11 highlighting produce and meats from local farms. The festival"s motto is "Everyone doing their part" and they plan to greatly reduce their waste, continuing the going green initiative they started three years ago. They are giving back to the local community as well. According to press accounts, "In 2008 the barbecue festival produced 2.3 tons of food waste which, mixed with wood chips, produced over 6 tons of fertile compost that is being used now by local residents."

4. High Sierra Music Festival (Quincy, CA July 2-5, www.highsierramusic.com) High Sierra calls itself "the ultimate intimate festival experience" with activities for kids and classes such as yoga, pilates, meditation and dance. The festival will be continuing its going green mission this year by encouraging posts on their ride-board and offering the option of an additional $2.50 to ticket purchasers to purchase carbon offsets. High Sierra will also be using Clean Vibes to help reduce their waste. Composting will be a part of the program as High Sierra works with area farmers to keep their organic waste out of landfills.

5. Rothbury Festival (Rothbury, MI, July 2-5, www.rothburyfestival.com) The Rothbury Festival—featuring The Dead, Bob Dylan, The String Cheese Incident, Willie Nelson, Ani DiFranco and Martin Sexton, may be the greenest music festival of the summer. Aside from the eco-friendly steps they are taking to make the concert more sustainable, they have put together a “think tank” to take place within the event where scientists, writers and politicians will share ideas about developing a green economy. "Hands-on workshops will offer opportunities to learn how to find a green job, make your home and office energy efficient, grow your own organic food and more," promises event press. They have brought in The Spitfire Agency to help reduce the waste of the event and are selling carbon offsets. The Rothbury Festival will also host a Green Team of volunteers helping to keep the event eco-conscious and plan to announce ways to grow their Sustainable Schools mission.

6. Gathering of the Vibes (Bridgeport, CT, July 23-26, www.gatheringofthevibes.com). Gathering of the Vibes is not just a fun, seaside event with jammy tunes from artists such as Levon Helm, Bob Weir & Ratdog and Crosby, Stills and Nash keeping alive the Grateful Dead-era memories of peace, love and music—the minds behind the Vibes also created the Green Vibes to help share tips on living green not only during the festival but in everyday life. The Green Vibes have their own webpage linked to the Gathering of the Vibes site which lists greening tips, greening videos and greening links. They even give you tips on how to "pack green" for the show. The festival itself will have a solar music stage, eco-friendly and organic merchandise, carbon offset options and green sponsors.

7. Lollapalooza (Chicago, IL, August 7-9, www.lollapalooza.com) Not only is Lollapalooza one of the biggest music festivals in the U.S. —featuring everyone from Depeche Mode to Snoop Dogg to the Beastie Boys, the Killers and Jane"s Addiction this year—but they are also one of the biggest contributors to the eco-scene. Every cent from the tickets purchased for Lollapalooza will support the Parkways Foundation, dedication to enhancing Chicago"s public spaces. Lollapalooza will feature many eco-vendors and nonprofits, and an extra $5 for the BeGreen Fan Tag helps offset your travel. Perhaps the most exciting incentive to go green at Lolla is the chance to win a Honda Insight Hybrid. The further green you go, the better chance you have to win, so bring a reusable water bottle, recycle your paper and plastics and take public transportation to get your Lolla Green Card stamped.

8. Outside Lands: Music and Arts Festival (San Francisco, CA, August 28-30, www.sfoutsidelands.com) Held in one of the most music- and local-food-oriented cities, Outside Lands will offer two days filled with a range of diverse music from perennial favorites like Pearl Jam and Dave Matthew"s Band to the more inventive sounds of M.I.A., TV on the Radio and The Mars Volta. And they"re providing many opportunities to live green while at the event. In 2008, the stage was entirely solar-powered and some artists used electric cars to transport equipment. This year there will be a local farmer"s market, bicycle valet and solar cell phone chargers. Their most exciting green promotion is EcoLands—an "interactive conservation happening" that includes environmental education classes and tips on living green.

9. Bumbershoot: Seattle"s Music and Arts Festival (Seattle, WA, September 5-7, www.bumbershoot.org). Drawing the mainstream fans and the not-so-mainstream fans alike with acts that include The All American Rejects, Katy Perry, Jason Mraz, The Black Eyed Peas and Franz Ferdinand, Bumbershoot will be hosted in one of the "greenest locales" in the U.S.—Seattle—and feature eco-conscious performers like Sheryl Crow, too. They have to

ns of ways to reduce, reuse and recycle from their organic merchandise to Bumbershoot food vendors turning their used grease into biodiesel. The festival will also showcase eco-art that helps to illustrate sustainable practices.

10. Symbiosis Gathering (Northern California TBA, September 17-21, www.symbiosisgathering.com). The Symbiosis Gathering"s goal is to "create an experience that is transformative and inspiring, based in a deep respect for our community and environment." It’s not only a music festival but an art and wellness festival as well. Working with EcoGatherings, a green event organizer, Symbiosis has been able to stay environmentally friendly by reducing waste and integrating environmental education into all their events. They have a "leave no trace" visitor policy and recycling and public transportation systems set up. Even their promotions use non-toxic ink and tree-free or recycled paper.

REBECCA BENSON is an editorial intern at E.