Festival sustainability does not start with being handed a garbage bag upon your arrival at the campgrounds. While that supplied garbage bag plays a vital role in encouraging all attendees to pick up after themselves at their campsites, efforts to make Electric Forest the cleanest and greenest it has ever been starts long before attendees walk through the festival gates.
Making the choice to reduce one’s waste footprint starts days and weeks prior to the festival with environmentally conscious purchasing and packing, but it also begins with education. The driving force behind necessary “eco-cation” (ecology education) prior to the start of this year’s EF has been the unique and very successful sustainability program Electricology.
Returning for its fourth year, Electricology is back with greater opportunities than ever before to get more attendees involved and make an even larger positive impact.
Last year Vinyl Mag not only highlighted the program in an interview with Rachel Wells, representative of Electricology and The High Five Program, but we actively participated in the program by bringing our recycling and trash to designated EcoZones throughout the grounds of Electric Forest, earned EcoPoints from our participation, and eventually redeemed our points by visiting one of the Electricology Stores.
As an active participant, the program seemed to make an impact on the festival as a whole. With our return to the Forest this year, we caught up with our good friend Rachel Wells to talk about the successes of Electricology 2014, new and exciting additions to the program, packing tips, green education, and glitter. Yes, glitter.
“Last year was extremely successful and we are growing along with the festival,” Wells said. “The festival has expanded its footprint over the years and we are going to keep growing to accommodate the congestion and waste produced by 40,000+ festival attendees.”
At EF 2014, the Electricology team helped collect 22 tons of compost, 8 tons of cardboard, 125 tons of recycling and 19 tons of steel and aluminum.
“People started organically creating piles of broken EZ ups, tents, and chairs on their own and that is a huge part of our labor, gathering that up. We collected and recycled over 20 tons of that stuff, so to have campers build these massive 30 foot mounds on their own on Sunday was really awesome.”
Everyday of EF there will be people on site working the fields and grounds picking up litter; but just because there are volunteers in place to pick up the trash, that doesn’t mean attendees can’t do their part in the clean-up process.
“If every person who attends Electric Forest leaves their waste tied up, in the appropriate bags, just sitting there in a nice little pile at their campsite, we could be out of there in 24-48 hours. We really could. That is our goal,” said Wells. “Everything we’re trying to do here is to cut down that cleanup. Not because we want to get done early, but because it’s going to save money for the festival and in return invest in other amazing opportunities for people to participate and it’s really going to make a statement to the community that we care and we want to come back every year.”
While one of Electricology’s goals for 2015 is to significantly cut the cleanup, the program also hopes to increase participation and educate all while having fun.
“This year our message is a little stronger,” Wells said. “The message is Rise to the Challenge. We feel like we’ve had a few years, so we know we’ll be having a lot of attendees who will be returning to the festival and I feel like this message will help EF veterans to teach the younger generation coming in and new attendees, and I think we can really make an impact. I think it’s absolutely possible to engage everyone and get everybody to set a standard for how we leave a music festival.”
Electricology started setting the eco-standard for this year’s EF by taking over the festival’s Facebook and Twitter pages one month out from the event. In addition to providing EcoTips, Electricology also talked about some of this year’s program engagements. Electricology is always experimenting with new ways to encourage participation and distribute prizes to increasing amounts of supporters. Each contest has hidden goals to increase waste diversion or reduce the post festival cleanup time, while still being a fun activity for guests.
Returning to the program is the Electricology Leaderboard Contest where EF’s top EcoPoint earners will compete for secret prizes and two tickets to next year’s festival. Additionally, Electricology has instated the Electricology Prize Cart, a mobile solution to crowd litter and instant gratification for the masses. The Prize Cart will circulate the entire festival footprint, inspiring random mass litter pickups wherever it goes, in exchange for a variety of instant prizes.
“Basically if you see our prize cart, they’ll be in areas where there is the most litter and we’re going to be inspiring these flash mobs for litter picking up and anyone who participates will get instant prizes,” Wells said. “So, for example, we might say that the first five people who can help us pick up an area by the food court will win an awesome cool prize and we might even end up taking them on our cart with us and head off to some place awesome!”
Also, for the first time this year, Bell’s Brewery will present the EcoPoints Party for top participants with pizza from Spicy Pie. The EcoPoints Party will include a special performance by the winner of Plug In’s Instrumental Forester Competition, KC Roberts & The Live Revolution. This invite-only party will take place on Sunday, to celebrate the greatest contributors to Forest Greening.
During our chat, we also asked Wells if she had any tips for this year’s festival and if she had any suggestions for things we should just leave at home.
“As renewable energy becomes more and more available and affordable, I would love to see people using LED flashlights, and coming up with some different kinds of reusable chargers and batteries. It would be great to see some alternative energies being used.”
Wells once again stressed the importance of leaving packaging home. Bought new camping gear? Unwrap it and take it out of its cardboard box, and recycle the packaging at home. Ultimately, leaving the packaging at home isn’t just going to cut down the clean-up time, it’s also going to cut down on the labor. As Wells explained last year, “Sometimes, there’s a few extra days of post production clean-up there that could have been cut if people had just left some of that stuff at home.”
In addition to items attendees should think twice about bringing, one surprise is glitter. While Wells would never tell anyone they can’t bring glitter to the festival she did explain how the Electricology team takes care in cleaning up all the leftover glitter found on site.
“Glitter is extremely hard to pick up and it goes everywhere, and there is only so much we can do to pick it up. We go around to where the campsites used to be and we’ll use a Shop-Vac to vacuum up the leftover glitter piles. Sometimes we’ll actually have to shovel out a part of that dirt and throw it away. All year round horses roam in the field where the GA camping is, so it’s important to us, that even those tiny little pieces of glitter get picked up. Within a month after the festival a horse is going to be grazing over that area and it’s very import that all those tiny little details are taken care of. Every little speck of glitter means just as much as the giant tents left behind.”
Wells also suggested leaving home plastic water bottles and bringing reusable water bottles. Hydration is a hot topic at this year’s EF and the festival will be installing 20 water stations throughout the Forest.
Festival sustainability starts and ends with each attendee. In order to keep our Forest clean and thriving, we must all be responsible with the things that we bring with us. Through Electricology, it is possible to inspire and motivate people to do the right thing and Rise To The Challenge. Of course the prizes and incentives are great, but as Wells stated, “It’s not just about getting a prize, it’s about doing what you’re supposed to be doing at Electric Forest and that’s something we’re abiding by. If you’re member of the Forest Family then this is something that you do.”
It all started when a much younger Jackie dove into her parents’ record collection, grabbed that trippy Magical Mystery Tour album, and played “Strawberry Fields” over and over again until it was engrained into her soul. She grew up on the dreams and stories of Simon and Garfunkel, “Bleeker Street” being one of her favorites, the seduction of The Doors, Van Morrison, because “Brown Eyed Girl” is definitely her song, and the likes of Jefferson Airplane, The Who, Jimi Hendrix…you get the picture. It may not show on the outside, but Jackie has a hippie heart, and that reflects in her musical tastes today. While some of her favorites may or may not be jam bands, her taste in music feeds into many genres. From alternative, Brit, and indie rock - OK, maybe all rock - to pop, to rap, to electronic, she loves it all. As a northerner, she thought she would never understand country until she found herself on a Georgia farm in cowboy boots watching Luke Bryan shake it for her- yeah, she got that. She is a chronic wanderluster, she doesn't believe in guilty pleasures, enjoys a great Moscow Mule, and is an absolute music festival fanatic- you’ll find her wherever the music takes her.