Outside Lands Music Fest Offers Eco Lands as Educational Green Haven
Photos by Jaymi Heimbuch
Outside Lands has given attendees a one-stop shop for all things green, from food to recycling to renewable energy to volunteerism. The festival has carved out a corner dubbed "Eco Lands" and it seems to be having an impact. It usually happens this way, simply because "green" is still something to be pointed out, rather than fully integrated. But despite that somewhat frustrating fact, Eco Lands really is a well done hotspot for giving attendees an eco-friendly oasis in what is mostly a mainstream outdoor music fest.
Eco Lands offers up alternative food - including everything from raw vegan culinary delights to some quick fruits from local farms and fair trade coffee - so that you can steer clear of the greasy pizza or (surprisingly) tater tots. Not only does this offer a healthy alternative, it also goes to raise awareness about taking up these options in daily life.
There's also an emphasis on renewable energy. There's not only a solar cell phone charging station, but an entire stage dedicated to running off renewable energy, with three large panels set up to gather sunlight - apparently more beefed up than last year. For the first two days of the festival, this was a great idea as the sun was out in full force. Today, it's foggy so I'm not sure how well it'll run. I've been working on tracking down someone from Outside Lands who can give me details on just how much power the solar panels have been able to provide for running the stage, but I've yet to get to the right person. (Knowing just how much power the panels provide is important for understanding just how much of an impact solar can make at outdoor festivals like this. I've finally been pointed towards someone who might be able to get me answers, and I'll pass them on if I can get them.)
Eco Lands is also the first area where people encounter the emphasis on proper waste disposal. Compost, recycling and waste bins are set up (likely required by the city of San Francisco, which is really hard core about waste diversion). The signs are clearly marked with what goes in which bin, and there are volunteers stationed at each, helping to ensure everything is tossed in the correct place. This is good to see for one particular reason - it's educating people (sort of) on what is and isn't recyclable, and what is and isn't compostable. A lot of people have been surprised to find that their corn plastic cups are required to go in the compost bin and not the recycling bin. I'm hoping it's leading a few people to ask why, and find out all sorts of fun facts about corn plastics, recycling, composting and more. My friends have certainly had an ear full about PLA, plastics recycling, varying definitions of biodegradability and more. I'm hoping more folks are getting some fun facts thrown at them as well that they'll carry with their festival memories.
On top of this, there is also an area where you can properly recycle your cell phone, as well as get prizes for turning in trash. The TRASHED Recycling booth offers up prizes for how many plastic bottles and cups an attendee brings in. So for instance, if you're thirsty, you can gather up 10 empty plastic water bottles, submit them for recycling, and receive a full plastic water bottle as a reward. I think they could have done a whole lot better on that front - giving people reusable water bottles instead and pointing out the fact that we wouldn't need these recycling stations in the first place if reusable containers were used off the bat...but I suppose we'll take what we can get at a mainstream music festival.
Finally, Eco Lands is a place for people to volunteer. For instance, the Global Water Challenge has a presence and when I visited with them, they said they were getting a great response from attendees. The majority of the people who visited signed up for emails to get more information and find out how to help get fresh, clean water to the world's populations. There's a ton of volunteer opportunities, and hopefully they're all getting significant attention.
So while green is still standing in a corner, rather than being disbursed throughout the fest as a matter of fact, Eco Lands is still a wonderful sight, and a very well done section of the event.
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