NEW ORLEANS — A new music festival in New Orleans is pushing its environmental cred as much as its music, touting lights and sound systems powered by the sun, paperless tickets and an investment in a landfill to offset emissions.
Project 30-90, a bash Saturday named for New Orleans' latitude and longitude, is one of the latest festivals to attempt not to leave a carbon footprint. Seattle's 39-year-old Bumbershoot festival, also this weekend, was one of pioneer environmentally friendly events. Bumbershoot, with headliners The Black Eyed Peas and Sheryl Crow, will use biodiesel for its trucks, solar power to illuminate its art exhibits and brochures and programs printed on recycled paper.
Whether the festivals actually avoid adding carbon dioxide that contributes to climate change, "green" is a growing trend, said Steve Schmader, president of the International Festivals & Events Association based in Boise, Idaho.
At least one concert stage is powered by the sun for Chicago's Lollapalooza and Bonnaroo in Tennessee. And Lollapalooza has a "Green Street" for eco-friendly vendors and "Rock & Recycle," which raffles a hybrid car to festival-goers who fill a recycling bag with cans, ride bikes or public transit to the festival, or participate in other green activities.
Schmader didn't know how many of the estimated 400,000 annual U.S. festivals – 4 million to 5 million worldwide – are taking steps to go green, but it's clear the trend is catching on. At the festival group's annual meeting Sept. 21-25 in Indianapolis, a number of sessions will be held about how to go green, he said.
In New Orleans, festival founder Don Kelly said he got the idea several years ago when his young daughter asked why New Orleans stopped curbside recycling after Hurricane Katrina.
"Her simple understanding was, 'We should do it, and it's good for the earth, so let's do it,'" Kelly said.
Headlining the New Orleans festival are the Von Bondies, who play Detroit garage rock and blues; Alabama rocker Jason Isbell (formerly of the Drive-By Truckers) and the 400 Unit; and blues, soul and rock group Grace Potter and The Nocturnals.
At the festival, instead of ferrying artists and staffers around on golf carts, acts will be pedaled to stages in bicycle rickshaws. Toilets will have recycled paper and food vendors must use biodegradable cups, plates and utensils.
Trash cans will be labeled for recycling, composting and landfill, and "green ambassadors" will answer questions about what goes where. Festival-goers can add $2 to the $30 ticket price for a carbon credit from the St. Landry Parish landfill to counter the emissions from their round trip to the site next to the Mississippi River. The money helps the landfill recoup more than $850,000 voluntarily spent on a system to collect and burn methane rather than letting the greenhouse gas seep into the atmosphere.
Festival-goers must bring a photo ID and the credit or debit card used to buy the paperless tickets for verification at the gate.
Globally, greening festivals have already spread.
The European Festival Association, which has 56 members, published environmental guidelines for music festivals in 2006. That group and an English nonprofit called A Greener Festival have recognized about 65 festivals so far for environmental practices.
The English group bases its award on a 56-point questionnaire, such as whether a festival recycles, requires food vendors to use recyclable or usable containers and utensils, and has a carbon footprint or greenhouse gas analysis.
"In abstract terms – what this festival (Project 30-90) is doing is almost exactly what we would be looking for," A Greener Festival co-founder Ben Challis wrote in an e-mail.
On the Net:
International Festivals and Events Association http://www.ifea.com/
European Festival Association: http://www.yourope.org
A Greener Festival: http://www.agreenerfestival.org