THE BLOG
07/06/2010 05:13 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Roskilde Music Festival: Inside the Green Village

Can you go to a rock festival event for 100,000 people, listen to the music, party, and at the same time get home-cooked food that tells stories about local regions and traditions? Where many of the stalls and small shops that offer merchandise from food to clothes have a sustainable take on things and a profile that aims to make people aware of the importance of sustainability and ecology issues? Yes you can. That is what Roskilde Festival, one of north Europe's biggest rock festivals, is trying to do. I believe that they do a very nice job!

Since the late 1970s, I have traveled to Roskilde Festival, which is about 20 miles outside of Copenhagen, to listen to the music and be with friends. When I was young, I stayed for almost a week, saw bands like U2, Mike Oldfield, and REM. Then when my children were small, we did it the luxurious way: We drove down only for the music and saw the Pixies, Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, and Neneh Cherry. For the last five, years, we've gone back to camping and staying the night for four full days, with my children hanging around their friends in their own camp. We have listened to acts as diverse as Jay Z and Coldplay. This year it was Gorillaz, Jack Johnson, and Muse among others, and a range of smaller bands, DJs, and rappers. Prince closed the festival Sunday night, and he gave an outstanding, fantastic performance last night that I will never forget.

However, before I got to the grand finale, I wanted to experience the other thing that I love about Roskilde Festival besides the music. That is the stories and agendas that the festival brings out in all the people attending. We are in it for the music, but we also need to be serious about the issues that surround us in our daily lives!

Roskilde Festival has an inspiring green profile that tries to make the thousands of people attending the festival think more about the impact of their footprints on this planet and act accordingly, not only at the festival, but also in their daily lives. Climate Boot Camp brought these issue closer to home by different activities for example, you could cycle in order to recharge you mobile phone and heat your food with solar energy. You can buy sleeping mats made of hay and grass, and a lot of very active young people present workshops, poetry slam, music, movie screening, art projects made out of waste -- all to debate climate change issues and inspire others to take small green steps.

Waste is a big issue. All cups are made out of recyclable material, and if you take your time going around the festival area and collecting them, you can get a refund for them, but you can also donate them to a NGO. There were billboards everywhere to inform you about waste issues and what it does to our planet.

Many of the festival's initiatives in this respect are not really new, but the festival is very good at incorporating them in the overall event as fun and accessible projects. The festival's main area had at its central spot a CO2 neutral swimming pool where you must exercise a bicycle for 30 minutes to purify the water for the pool before you are allowed to actually jump in.

As a chef and food writer, I of course think that the food profile is one of the most interesting ways to talk about climate and how we can change the way we live through changing our eating habits. Since junk food is one of the really big polluting factors, both with respect to the environment and our bodies, it is super inspiring to be at a music festival where there is paid special attention to food and the particular values around food.

Roskilde Festival has five stages, and organic food has its special sustainable space next to the Odeon stage, where you can buy all kinds of organic meals. However, there are rules and regulations that comprise the whole festival area -- for example, all dairy products must be organic, and all coffee must be fair trade. Every food stall has to offer a vegetarian meal, which means that you can be at the festival for four days without having to eat meat. Different stalls also offer different food cooked on local organic ingredients made in the Nordic tradition. It is mixed with food traditions from all over world. Except for sponsors, no big corporate brands are allowed. Every year the stall owners must apply to Roskilde Festival in order to have their stall license renewed, and they need to come up with a concept and a reasonable budget so that the festival organizers are confident they will make money. This is important because license holders are required to pay a fee of 21% of their revenue to the Roskilde Festival, which then donates the total profits to several non-profit organizations representing a large variety of NGO activities.

Food is a very important part of a rock festival. You walk around a lot, at least about seven miles a day on average I would estimate, and you obviously drink more than usual, some more than others though. What to eat next is a big talking point, and when you stroll around the festival area you hear all the time people talking about food, and when you stand in line to buy some you discuss what you had last, what is your favorite! You go together with friends to collect food and then you sit down together and eat. The festival has limited chairs and tables available but people nevertheless sit together almost everywhere, eating, drinking and enjoying their food.

As I explored the festival's food scene, I had a tasty hot dog from Holbaek's butcher, who sold a really high-quality organic sausage. There were different vegetarian sandwiches where chefs really had applied their imagination in order to come up with some tasty vegetarians options -- for example shredded raw celeriac in traditional smoked Danish cheese, beetroot burgers, or homemade crunchy hummus with lots of raw vegetables. Folkekoekkenet (The People's Cantina) served salted beef with potatoes and horseradish sauce -- all 100% organic. One morning I had really warm and creamy oatmeal from Manfred's, which is a 100 % green place that also did a fabulous pea soup, and a sweet and sour cold buttermilk soup, which is a Danish summer tradition!

There was bread baked on location, that is, in a bakery where you could see what was going on, and with sourdough and super quality Danish wheat. Late one night after a concert with DJ collective Den Sorte Skole (The Black School), I had a sandwich with shredded meat from Kristinedal, which is good Danish beef slowly cooked in huge ovens at medium temperature, then marinated, cooked some more, and then served in a whole wheat bun with salt and cucumber salad. How difficult can it be! It is served with a strawberry milkshake made with organic milk made as they go along.

I also had different drinks, especially in between concerts, before, or after. Thursday night after Gorillaz I went for the organic ones, and the liquor came from a local fruit juice maker that makes organic gin, vodka, and the other standard ones that you may need. Great tasty drinks homemade on the spot and without artificial flavoring! I had ginger Fizz, mojito, and strawberry daiquiri. They cut tons of Danish locally grown strawberries to supply the demand of freshly made drinks.

Sustainable Danish Festival

Why is it important for a festival that lasts for merely 4 days to think green and about quality food? Because it inspires people to demand quality and organic green food in other contexts also. It sets standards that I think the entertainment industry and leisure economy in general could learn from. Think about it. If the food and drink at sport arenas, theme parks, and fairs around the world would "think" green and cut down on meat and standard junk food, and mainly cook and serve local home made food from local ingredients? That could create an interesting sustainable model almost equal to an entire city!

The beautiful thing is that it is healthier, it is better for the environment, it connects you to the local area, and it tells stories about who we are. The problem today is the standard brands everywhere producing the same tastes and telling only a story about monopoly, not about the land, the local area, and the people. The entertainment and leisure industry around the world has huge market power through the way they source things. Therefore, their choice is important, they have power and influence with the big 5.

There is also a different perspective: how fun it could be! If you got engaged in actively sustaining conditions for your leisure activities while attending them and at the same time experiencing new kinds of food that you did not know of previously, new and fresh ideas with the involvement of local tastes will generate. Because of the added element of surprise, it could change the whole perspective of people becoming familiar with small green steps they can take in sustainability and green living. Because inspiring people to change ways and habits is one of the big issues in changing the climate, changing people.

In sum, to create a village for a four-day festival, and to do it differently, is both important and inspiring. I enjoyed it, as always, especially when walking around listening to a lot of young people talking about the food, where one could have it organic, where they could recharge there phone on a bike for free, seeing them collecting garbage to earn some money for some more beers and food. It raises the hope in me that knowledge and incentives can give people the tools and ability to make changes in their life.

Roskilde Festival is a very international event. I met people from all over Europe, Australia, and America. Look up their website next year. I believe the new theme will be poverty.