Stay Woke, Bonnaroo

After going to my first Bonnaroo, I was amazed. The culture there is something so out-of-this-world and foreign to me. People are constantly positive, friendly, and ready to have a good time. It’s easy to get caught up in all the magic of it, even with the ridiculous heat. Getting to camp with my best friends and see several of my favorite artists was one of the highlights of my summer, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t leave The Farm with a bit of sadness, and not just because the weekend was over.
The amount of waste left on The Farm is astounding. You’re probably thinking, “how is that possible?”

  • Bonnaroo encourages recycling by providing a blue bag to every car that camps out.
  • Anywhere you see a waste bin, it’s sandwiched between others labeled “Compost” and “Recycle” all with a short description of what should go in which bag.
  • Campers can bring in their own empty reusable water bottle to refill throughout the day, making buying several bottles of water every day inside Centeroo unnecessary.
  • Refills! There are multiple places throughout Centroo and between Plazas where you can refill your water bottle.
  • There are workshops, discussions, and non-profit organizations all about sustainability
  • Almost all vendors use compostable utensils and plates
    They have a partnership with Clean Vibes to minimize waste going to landfills.
These are just some of the many things Bonnaroo does to be “green”. It’s all fantastic, but it doesn’t solve the problem of the amount of waste produced AND left behind all over The Farm. I’m heartbroken I didn’t get a picture as proof, but here’s the strongest visual I can think of. Imagine Plaza 9, where I stayed, with hundreds of cars lined up in rows. Now replace each car with 2-6 garbage bags. Now add litter in the grass between all of these garbage bags, floating around because campers didn’t dispose of their PBR cans, tarps, balloons, broken coolers, and fruit snack wrappers properly. Now let this image go on for miles and miles. That’s what’s left behind on Monday morning.

We can do better than this! I’m not saying I’m completely zero-waste and didn’t contribute to this, but my friends and I were careful of what we were bringing and made sure to use as little as possible and keep everything together so it was easy to dispose of later. There is no reason why we can’t make it a goal to be better to our environment while we’re on vacation, so here are the things I kept in mind.
Make investments. Don’t use tarps and tents that you expect to just leave behind. If you’re able to, invest in things that will last you a long time. Unexpected things happen, just look at us! One of the tents we brought broke when we tried to set it up. We just loaded it back into our car.Bring your own utensils or reuse the compostable ones given out by vendors by rinsing it off and stashing it in your fanny pack for later.The big one: Try not to use water bottles as often. For each day of the festival I used one bottle for brushing my teeth and pouring on myself to rinse down. It comes down to just being aware of what you’re using and what happens to it after you’re done with it. If you put all the ones you used in a day in a pile, would it surprise you? Are you reusing them at all? Are you recycling them when you’re finished, or are they being left in the grass. It’s not a crime to use them, just be mindful.
We can’t just say we radiate positivity. We have to act like it, and that involves being responsible for what we’re leaving behind and knowing we should improve next year.

Image by Mark Pace/Times Free Press