Wanderlust Yoga Festival Founders on Mindful, Murky Green Event Planning (Interview)

wanderlust founders jeff krasno sean hoess founders photo

Photo: Wanderlust

How do you party like a yogin? Wanderlust is not just the largest multi-day yoga event in the world, it's now a key player in the larger U.S. festival market.

Wanderlust founders Jeff Krasno and Sean Hoess are juggling the often-messy logistics of large-scale, green event planning....and knew full-well they'd get flak for taking on SmartWater on as a sponsor. In this interview, they explain their decision to embrace a bottled water brand and give us an inside look at this gigantic yoga event.While today's story isn't specifically about renouncing your yoga mat, yoga apparel (i.e., nude yoga), or the how/why of yoga's entrance into mainstream culture, it does have a little bit to do with all of it.

When there is so much debate and celebration surrounding the practice, it's sign of the times that yoga has firmly woven itself into the fabric of Western society: which can, even among the best of intentions, mean consumption, carbon emissions and waste following suit.

local food wanderlust photo

Not your typical festival food: locally-sourced and healthy. Photo: Flickr/brad.coy

Big, Green Event Planning: Manpower, Money, Planning, Vigilance

TreeHugger: This is the third annual Wanderlust Festival, and its expansion from one to now six different locations is a testament to its rising popularity. The past two years you aimed to be zero-impact and our field reporters applauded your successful efforts recycling, composting, locally-sourcing grub, providing water-filling stations and carbon offsetting.

How do you plan to tackle the increase in festival goers and party locales? Has there been a learning curve over the previous years in your establishment of other green efforts?
Jeff Krasno and Sean Hoess: Managing growth is a challenge for any event, and Wanderlust is no exception. With increased attendance we'll have to deal with more consumption and waste, and there will inevitably be additional carbon emissions from increased travel to and from the events.

The upside of growth is that you have more resources at your disposal to deal with the side-effects. This year, for the first time we can afford to hire an established greening consultant, Zero Hero Events out of Fort Collins, CO, to manage our on-site sustainability initiatives at both our two festival events as well as the seven one-day events across the country.

Many of the things we'll be doing -- three-stream (compost, recycling, trash) waste management, biodiesel or electric generators, compostable cups, flatware and plates, carbon offsets, etc. -- are not new to our events, but we we'll be able to do an even better job in implementation.

If there's one thing you learn in event greening, it's that the most important thing is what happens after everyone goes home. Was the waste properly collected? Was it cleanly separated? Did the recycling plant actually accept your recycling? Did the compost facility make compost from your waste? Success in those areas require manpower, planning, and constant vigilance during the event -- and all that is expensive.

jeff krasno photo

Festival founder, Jeff Krasno. Photo: Flickr/brad.coy

Amtrak-it, Wanderlusts!

TH: You guys can do a lot to influence guests in the way of greening their stay through festival infrastructure and planning as you mentioned, but I also believe it's up to each of us to yoga/party mindfully. What can festival participants do to make their attendance low-impact?
JK & SH: We're happy to say that Wanderlust attendees are a relatively conscious bunch. Most attendees show up with canteens in hand, ready to eat locally and separate their compost and recyclables.

Probably the biggest impact our attendees have is in getting to our events -- about 60% of our Wanderlust California attendees come from the Bay Area, and that's a decent long drive. To reduce this impact, we encourage people to carpool or use public transportation.

Amtrak goes from San Francisco to Truckee, CA, which is only 9 miles from Wanderlust, and there's a train from Boston and NYC to Brattleboro, VT!

But this year we hope to make it a bit easier by rolling out a ride sharing app on our website. We're also negotiating with a few bus companies to provide charter biodiesel buses from SF, Boston and NYC to further ensure that our festival is low-impact.

In addition to transportation methods, we are also working on offering on-site camping at Squaw Valley. However, we encourage our festival goers to camp and have a list of nearby campgrounds listed on our website.

common wanderlust photo

The artist, Common, taking it down at Wanderlust 2010. Photo: Flickr/brad.coy

SmartWater Sponsorship: Eco-Blasphemy or Eco-Effective?

TH: I used to be much more green extreme but practicing/instructing yoga has me walking a more balanced approach to the reality of compromises one must make in an eco-leadership role. That said, I sort of shuddered when I saw the Miami event taking place at the Miami Standard being sponsored by SmartWater. From past coverage here on TreeHugger, I know Wanderlust has in the past championed zero-plastic. Why the change?
JK & SH: On a macro (festival) scale, reducing plastic is one important item on a list of many competing environmental goals. This was an issue that we considered carefully, but in the end we determined that we would be more eco-effective with this partnership than we would be without it.

Simply put, our relationship with SmartWater underwrites our unprecedented collection, separation and recycling efforts, and also will allow us to offset each festival's carbon emissions. We are sensitive to the fact that some in our community will be uncomfortable with this decision, but on balance, we believe this partnership will yield environmental gains versus 2010.

yoga aid wanderlust photo

Photo: Flickr/brad.coy

Wanderlust Yogins, Take Action!

TH: Getting a large group of like-minded people together seems a ripe opportunity for messaging positive change. What, if any, activism might be going on?
JK & SH: A lot, we hope! Our official charity partner is Off The Mat, Into The World (OTM), which encourages yogis to get out in the world and help train the next generation of activists.

This year, Seane Corn will again be teaching a large (1000 - 2000 yogis!) charity class. Through YogaAid, class participants encourage their friends to sponsor them. For example, last year's class generated $8,000 for OTM and we expect it to be much larger this year.

In addition, we're thrilled to welcome Deepak Chopra to Vermont and hope that he'll spark deeper interest in alternative medicine. We're also proud to have added a number of speaker activists to our Speakeasy talks, among them Linda Sparrowe and Bryant Terry. Ultimately, activism comes from within our community -- not from us -- but hopefully we can spark some ideas and generate some passion.

The Wellness-Yoga-Green Connection

TH: You're quoted in the festival's press release saying, "Wanderlust is a place to move freely, rejuvenate and take your wellness to a visceral new level." I like that. I try to champion the wellness-sustainability link here on TreeHugger and I sometimes get comments from readers like, "What does yoga have to do with green? Get lost!" I'd love to hear your thoughts on the wellness/yoga-green connection, from someone who's basically created my dream, wellness-oriented festival. JK & SH: I think the people writing those comments probably don't understand the yoga community very well. Yes, yogis are individuals, and I'm sure there are some rampant consumers and mindless polluters in the community, just as there are in any other group.

That being said, yoga is a method of self-improvement that emphasizes abstentions, observances, concentration, and control (to paraphrase just a few of the eight limbs).

Health and wellness are integral to a successful yoga practice, and it doesn't take a great mental leap to switch from an inward focus (your personal health and wellness) to an outward focus (the heath and wellness of others). In that sense, yoga and environmentalism are flip sides of the same coin. I hate to generalize, but in our observations of the attendees at Wanderlust -- a full third of whom are yoga teachers -- we have a pretty green bunch.

Thanks, Jeff and Sean. May Wanderlust 2011 be the most positive and eco-productive of the three yet!

More on Wanderlust
Wanderlust Festival Featured Musical And Meatless Moby On The Menu
Treehugger Asks 'Why Go Green' At the 2009 Wanderlust Festival
Wanderlust Festival Co-Founder Jeff Krasno Speaks About the Festival's Green Initiatives

Wanderlust Yoga Festival Founders on Mindful, Murky Green Event Planning (Interview)
How do you party like a yogin? Wanderlust is not just the largest multi-day yoga event in the world, it's now a key player in the larger U.S. festival market.

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