We're All Groundskeepers at Outdoor Music Festivals“Scoopin’ the loop” was the only amusement for adolescents in my rural Iowan hometown on Sunday nights in the summer. The “loop” was the uptown square, and to “scoop” it was to drive in endless circles (squares?) around it. Scoopin’ the loop was tailgating in motion. Teens borrowing their dad’s truck had a five-second window to holler at the squealing girls perched in the bed of a passing truck. Just like their dads minimized the wave on rural roads to a single lifted finger, most catcalls were reduced to suggestive pointing, any comments drowned out by the blaring country and rock music.

If this summer you find yourself driving around aimlessly with the top down and volume up, why not go to an outdoor music festival? The ticket price may be less than what you’re spending on gasoline.

Go as a group, with friends or soon-friends using rideshare programs, to further cut down on fuel and parking costs.

Most huge concerts are staged in remote arenas, necessitating driving there. This weekend, if you live in Georgia, you can just hop on Atlanta’s smarta MARTA bus or train to get your dance on at Imagine Music Festival. Imagine that, public transportation to a convenient venue.

Folks driving a truck into Pickathon were not ignorant hillbillies, but eco-smart concessionaires. Portland’s folk-indie music fest takes the forefront on sustainability with zero-waste food trucks.
No disposable anything, not with Klean Kanteens for microbrews and compostable plates for vegetarian sandwiches. Pickathon organizers are not just eco-heroes. They’re tuned in to basic human needs and differences at music fests, setting up separate camping sites for sleepers and partiers, designated smoking sites, and a free shuttle to bring neighborly folk to a family farm.

Sounds like bliss to me. Outdoor music heaven can be found anywhere from farm to ranch, like the intimate UtopiaFest snuggling diverse genres together in a Texas valley this Labor Day weekend. Slick corporate festivals, step aside.

A natural amphitheater, where music reverberates from the grassy lawn, unfortunately can run counter to environmental stewardship.

No one would toss a banana peel on a discotheque dance floor, so why do so many litter the grounds at music festivals? It’s open air, not open landfill. We don’t want to get down and funky in the foul stench of many trashed concert landscapes.

I remember tentatively leaping onto any piece of garbage wedged deep enough into the mud to bear my weight while crossing the muck that engulfed northern Vermont in August of 2004. Coventry was the concert that brought us Phish-heads the closest to rainy Woodstock of the Grateful Dead era. Grateful for debris as stepping stones, celebrating plastic bags as rain booties, it was an exception to the hippie environmental ethic.

Most refuse is from beverages, explaining the long lines at port-a-potties. At rave scenes, concert trinkets like glow bands get thrown into the mix. They’re tossed out to the crowds, then trampled under foot when flung off in apparent ecstasy. Cut this trash cycle like a tripped out loop and save your Mardi Gras beads from Nocturnal Wonderland for future events.

A hard-core concert-goer ranked the cleanest and dirtiest music festivals. Taking the trash problem into his own hands, The Festival Guy held the sign “If we all picked up one piece of trash we could clean the whole place” and a garbage bag. It worked. Definitely gripe to festival organizers about the lack of bins, but doing your own part to clean up and encouraging the masses around you might be more effective.

If you need extra incentive to keep the scene clean, join the festival’s Green Team for perks that range from free t-shirts to free admission. The clean-up C’roo at Bonnarroo can clean up afterwards with courtesy showers and fuel up with meal tokens. Clean Vibes hires paid crew as well as volunteer positions. Even on Labor Day, I wouldn’t mind doing a little of that kind of work for free.

Picking up all the visual noise from the garbage, we’ll hear the music loud and clear.


CarrieCarrie is an environmental educator, anthropologist, and translator. She took her passions for ecological, health, and women’s rights advocacy from the offices of Washington, D.C. to the streets of South America. Now in Colombia, she is slowly opening women’s eyes to the wonders of “la copita de luna” (Moon Cup) and Keepers.

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