The festival will still be epic but the ecological footprint will be much smaller.
Last year, the Roots and Blues festival generated just under seven tons of garbage.
In an effort to reduce the amount of material going to the landfill, the Salmon Arm Folk Music Society’s environmental committee has initiated a new policy and guidelines.
“I think everybody from the board, to volunteers, to patrons think it’s something that is perhaps overdue,” says festival society board member Doug Hearn, who thinks the policy will make a significant difference in the waste that’s generated. “We’re hoping that just through composting we can reduce it by three tons.”
The biggest change will be that no plastic water bottles will be available on-site and every utensil, plate, cup and straw at food vendors, in beverage gardens and in the volunteer lounge will be made of compostable material.
“The long-term initiative is to get as much out of the waste stream and into the recycling stream as possible,” Hearn says, suggesting festival-goers bring their own reusable water bottles, which can be refilled at several water stations throughout the fairgrounds. “We’re doing this to make ourselves sustainable in terms of the environment,” Hearn says. “We’ve had really, really good co-operation from the volunteers and the vendors – they’re all behind it.”
And now to get festival-goers on-board, something that will be made possible with help from the volunteers.
A total of 17 eco stations will be set up around the festival site, each with four bins – one for compostable items, one for returnable items, one for recyclable items and another for garbage.
Peter Allchin and Susan Eisenberger are executive members of the GT Dragon Boat Team and share the role of head supervisors on the festival’s volunteer environment team that keeps the fairgrounds free of litter.
“It could be difficult the first year because it’s the first time, so we’ll try to get the general public to follow the instructions on the bins,” Allchin says, noting festival-goers responded well when recycling was introduced several years ago.
“When we first got going it was getting them to find a bin, now it’s to get them to find the right bin,” he says.
While recycled and refundable items can be sorted through in order to reduce cross-contamination, compost cannot.
“Once it’s commingled it’s ruined,” he says, of the compostable material that would then be headed to the landfill instead of a composting facility. “One little piece in the wrong place spoils the whole thing.”
To help prevent that, eco-educators will rotate among the 17 stations and be available to direct patrons on which bin to use.
Facades to front the bins at each station are under construction and will be made available to other groups in the community, says Roots and Blues Executive Director David Gonella.
Eisenberger says 40 members of the GT Dragonboat team will work with the new plan and have agreed to offer feedback following the festival.
“We’re hoping that by having bins well marked, the public will get behind it and support it,” she says.
Eisenberger notes that while a great portion of the festival grounds are pretty clean in the new light of day, there tends to be a fair accumulation of garbage left in front of both the main stage and the barn stage.
Allchin believes this is due, in part, to the fact festival-goers tend to find a place they like and stake their claim for the rest of the day.
“People get into position for a performance,” he says. “They don’t want to get up and leave so they stay, then when they get up it’s a mess.”