As any experienced Forester knows, the Electric Forest team are experts in keeping a festival green and rewarding everyone for helping out! Let’s face it, we all know there is nothing more disheartening than walking out of a festival for the night and seeing the chaos riddled all over the festival grounds. It’s even more annoying when the mess makes it’s way back to your campsite and every time you want to eat or, more importantly: make a drink, you cant find anything you need amidst all the debris. When you have a festival with thousands and thousands of people, the impact that we leave can be huge, so let’s make sure that impact is a positive one! We got a chance to chat with Rachel, the head of the Electricology greening program at Electric Forest and she had some great insight on ways that we can all help reduce our carbon footprint at this year’s forest, as well as hook up our fellow Foresters with some rad freebies!
Hey Rachel, this is Lindsay with Festop, how are you?
Hi there, Lindsay! Thanks for taking some interest in our program and taking time to talk with me.
Oh no problem we are really grateful that you guys had the time, I’m sure you are super busy!
We are but I’m feeling pretty good about going into the weekend. We had a lot of the preparations in the works now for about a year, things are really coming together and we will be heading on site later today.
That’s exciting! Well, I just wanted to reiterate some of the points I read up on the Electricology program online. I wanted to clear up as much as possible for people that want to be more involved. You know how people always have the idea that they are going to come and recycle and pick up the majority of their trash, but what are some of the major ways that the Electricology program could be helped out much further than that?
Well, we’ve been running some solid campaigns over the last couple of months about preparing your packing and really thinking about what you’re bringing to the forest to begin with. We’re asking a lot of folks to leave the packaging behind. You are never going to get that stuff back in the box. But I pick up a lot of those boxes at the end of the weekend, so removing all of the excess packaging if you are bringing new items is a really big thing that will probably account for about ten to fifteen percent of what we are picking up at the end of the festival. That’s huge right there. Also bringing more reusable materials in general. We are asking people to think first before they pack. As for being on site, we are running a three bin waste system with compost and everything is pretty much reusable or compostable in the festival. Like your plate, your cup and all the food, and it being processed locally. So we are just asking that people mind that in there. Also, every morning when you go to run to the bathroom, go take a shower, get a cup of coffee, get a couple of bags of ice for the day, you know; run your errands for your campsite essentially. We’ve got an eco zone right in those areas, so you can bring stuff from your campsite and we’ll give you some eco points. We’ll give you some more trash bags and recycling bags that you can take back to your campsite. Then, when you plan to go into the venue, we ask that you stop by the Electricology store at the entrance and exchange your eco points for some chances to win some amazing prizes from our vendors and our sponsors.
So as I was reading up on the eco points system. I was at forest last year but I wasn’t really familiar with that! How do you keep track of them and do you get something?
We have basically three stores here, one inside the ranch arena, one at Sherwood court and then one at the venue entrance. Basically we sort donated prizes from all over the festival and its cool because we ask every single department to get involved, so it kind of creates a bit of a stake for everyone. We have all our vendors donating coupons and all sorts of stuff. Our sponsors are donating incredible prizes like Eno hammocks, Chaco’s gift certificates, backpacks and we have some Diff eyewear, sunglasses, etc. It’s really great because everyone has been incredibly generous. We put up these beautiful merchandise displays and in all of those locations and then you shop for your prizes and the more green deeds that you do throughout the weekend, the more opportunities you have to earn eco points and you can win these prizes. About every fifteen minutes we will be giving out stuff at these locations. We’ve got posters, artist signed things, and last year we gave away a hot air balloon ride to a random girl just for picking up a piece of litter in the middle of the pathway! So we have some really extreme stuff that were giving away and rewarding people as part of a positive reinforcement campaign. We don’t want to tell people that are littering that they suck, because that’s a negative comment and that’s not what electric forest is about. It’s about teaching our neighbors how to be better festivalgoers and be a part of the community for each other. So we are using positive reinforcement through eco points to show people that it does take everybody to have a mess free camp space. In the process people get really cool stuff and get to feel really excited that they are helping keep Electric Forest clean.
There are awesome prizes involved! Clearly all the festival necessities are included. And how does the Ultimate Camp contest work?
Well, the Ultimate Camp Challenge is something that’s been growing for a couple of years and this year we had such a great response that we asked people to submit plans in advance with blueprints and sustainability ideas, social and community outreach concepts and we chose a great group of folks. When they arrive on Thursday, there are a couple of groups that were chosen and I think we’ve got like a space recyclers theme, a medieval theme camp and I think there’s even a star wars theme camp that might be popping up this year! Basically we are going to give them some special challenges and monitor them throughout the weekend and see how sustainable their campsite is and how important is their presence to their neighbors to build a better electric forest experience The water team, which is another completely different awesome plug in challenge, where we appoint a monarch that gets to ride around on a golf cart and be the king of Electric Forest. He has chosen water as an issue so he’s going to be encouraging sustainable water and overall hydration to all of the campers and he will be travelling throughout all of the campsites to pick a winner. Whoever he picks wins tickets to next year along with some pretty amazing prizes from Chaco’s. We’re really excited about that. Last year’s winners went all out with a Captain Planet theme and they even had cardboard cut outs of the characters of Captain Planet and they put the villain on the trash can and they sang the theme song to everyone that walked by. They all had the color-coded t-shirts and they had an incredibly sustainable campsite. It was clean, reusable, had renewable energies and they were just an incredibly positive force for their neighbors. So we wanted to reward them with something really special. We’re really excited that they’re coming this year and were going to give them a bunch more cool stuff.
That’s so awesome of y’all and of them especially! Speaking of the water situation, I think half the time most campsites just turn in to an empty water bottle city by the end of it the festival. What are some of your best tips to avoid this?
Well, we’ve got a few different options. This year Electric Forest has invested in 20 new water wells all throughout the venue and the campsites, so we are making sure that people have more opportunities than ever to hydrate themselves as much as possible. Instead of purchasing a new bottle of water every time, they should just hold on to that bottle and they’re going to pass a lot of water stations! We’re asking people also to bring reusable water bottles. You can get them anywhere along your way and if you need it I’m sure we’ve got some great ones for sale in the forest merch booth. There’s something else you can do with the littered water bottles. We are doing a neat promo with the Jenkstars who run the Saloon and the Illuminarium inside the Forest. If you pick up an empty water bottle at a set and on your way to the next awesome set, pick up a little bit of litter and put it inside the water bottle. Then turn it into the Jenkstars at the Saloon and they’ll give you some eco points for your trouble. They’re building things out of these bottle bricks. They’re going to be repurposing some of our old Electricology banners and we might build lounge furniture. Maybe we will build some tables and we just see where it goes. Once you get hundreds of those water bottles filled with litter turned in, it’s pretty remarkable what you can do. They actually turn into great insulators. I know people in organizations around the world that are building schools in impoverished towns using this concept. So we’re really excited to do something to bring this to the Forest. I think that in this huge way, we can tackle major littler problems like water bottles, cigarette butts and glow stick connectors are actually a very popular piece of litter that just don’t break down. Just pick that stuff up and turn it into the Jenkstars and we’re going to build something cool with it.
That’s such a great idea! You know how you always walk around at the end of a festival and see everything on the ground as you’re walking back and you can’t help but think to yourself like “Oh man that’s somebody’s job!”
Yeah absolutely! We’re really asking folks to take a moment and when you’re done with that amazing set that you just witnessed and there’s just kind of a glow that falls upon you, take a moment to take care of your dance space Take time to care for your neighbors and lets allow for the next group that’s going to come through to enjoy the beauty of what you just had. Another festival phenomenon, I saw in a silent disco a couple of weekends ago, it was completely litter free inside that silent disco! Like you didn’t hear a single crunch of a cup because I think it would have disturbed it. So I’m really hoping that this gives the Electric Forest the same atmosphere and gives everyone a nice trash free dance space. Otherwise all people will hear is a bunch of crunching of cups and water bottle. So that’s a really big thing. We will also have a prize cart going around this year, it’s a golf cart and a man is just going to roll up to various locations that are heavily littered, maybe in the food court area out in the campsites, for example. He’ll just immediately have folks get together and hand out trash bags and gloves and we’ll get it cleaned up together with the masses. Then he’s going to pass out instant prizes right there, like maybe sunglasses, lip balm, posters, or a hat, or sometimes he may even take you on the golf cart to go meet somebody cool! Or you may get a food voucher for free food from the vendor that you helped cleaned up their area. So stuff like that we are going to be kind of experimenting with and the prize cart is just there to inspire mass litter pick up wherever it goes.
I especially like how you said earlier that you guys don’t necessarily don’t want to have a negative view on the people that do litter because you know sometimes it really is innocent. Like you are just sitting with your friends and you set your cup down because you are tired of holding it and you just forget. So this is a great way to kind of make up for that.
Exactly! Like my husband, who is my partner in this project, we’ll hold on to something for forever and stuff sometimes just gets lost and it’s a heartbreaking thing. So you know when I see other litter and stuff I want to give people benefit of the doubt that they didn’t intentionally do that. I tell our volunteers all the time, “If you tell somebody that sucks, that they suck, they’ll just suck harder!” So if you tell their friend who is awesome, that they get a prize for being awesome, then hopefully the people that suck will at least go through the motions to win that prize and maybe in the process they’ll learn some essential things to have a clean festival and be a part of it. We are some of the only people that get to see how beautiful Electric Forest is when we leave. I think that everybody that has been to this festival for the weekend in this dream like state in this gorgeous place, they should also get to see how beautiful those hills are when they’re cleaned up and they’re in their bare. I think that is possible for us this year. It is just going to take this community of 40,000+ people to come together and recognize that if we all suck it up for just five to ten minutes at the end of this event and keep our area clean and leaving it in a way that all of us can manage, we can be out of there in just a couple of days. The general campggrounds are, throughout the rest of the year when they aren’t being used for a fest, used for horse ranching. There are a number of animals that feed, graze, and raise their babies on that lot, so every piece of micro litter, every glow stick piece, every cigarette butt, they never break down. Every little thing like that affects the ecosystem after we leave. So it’s important that we show the community of Rothbury that we care about that land and that we appreciate that they have let us all in. We want to be able to come back and make it bigger and better every year, and that’s just not really going to happen unless people start wising up and taking a moment to give back to the Forest before they leave.
That really is true. So, you obviously have many years of experience with the festival, what are some areas of the Electricology program in previous years that haven’t quite gotten as much attention that you guys think people could improve on a bit to really make a difference?
That’s a great question, I feel like this year, we’re going to be putting an eco zone in the good life village, so they’re really going to give VIP the full treatment and give them special prizes as well. VIP is growing more than ever before so we want to make sure that those patrons have an opportunity. Every year we run the leaderboard contest and that’s really what I promote most this year. There are a few folks that discover what we’re doing and they just throw their game plan out the window and start bringing us litter from everywhere! It’s really incredible and they deserve something more. What we do is, after we kind of start to identify who are becoming our regulars at the eco points stores, we put them in a special competition where they can compete for a pair of tickets to next year, as well as other fun experiences along the way. Last year, our winner Caley, brought us 30 pounds of cigarette butts throughout the weekend and turned in about 1200 eco points! She was also our runner up the year before and she came back and crushed it. The winners of 2013 took a banner stand that had fallen during a windy night and walked through the campgrounds and collected people’s trash. They tied it up on the pole and carried it all over the campgrounds and provided an incredible service. So we were really happy to treat them as well. With the leaderboard challenge, they paid for a ticket to be there and they have every right to go and enjoy the festival in any way that they want. Yet they continually spend their mornings and their evenings, promoting this program and teaching their neighbors how to be better festivalgoers and doing some really backbreaking work, to be honest. Like 30 pounds of cigarette butts by hand and on foot is a feat that blows my mind still! We just tell ourselves, it’s all fresh trash, nothing has been like gestating there. Caley really went after it, so this year with the leader boarders, she gets to start pretty high. I want to make sure we promote it as much as possible and give more people the chance to participate in that challenge if they think that’s where their passions lie. Our top 50 leader boarders at the end of the weekend are going to be invited on the last day to a super awesome private pizza party, sponsored by the Spicy Pie. The Jenkstars are very generously shutting down the Saloon for a little while on Sunday afternoon. And they will be getting a performance by the Instrumental Forester Challenge winner. The Ultimate Camp Challenge folks will be invited too. It’s basically just a party to celebrate everyone that won a challenge because they decided to step out of their comfort zone and do something more for the Forest and their community. So this is our way of saying thanks! The leader boarders account for about 10% of our total participations so each of them are doing the work of about 2,000 people, just to give you a perspective of how much they do. We also have about an 85% return rate on our eco points, from when we pass them out to when we receive them at the stores.
Wow so they are really putting in the time!
They are! It’s like all they do, they just walk around and pick up litter and they are just these little fairies! It’s an incredible thing that they do for the rest of us.
Well I hope that more people are willing to take after that, it will make a much better experience for the rest of us. Not that I could have even imagined any ways in which Electric Forest could have been any better than it already is!
We are incredibly proud to be a part of this whole process. I feel like Electric Forest is a gold standard of music festivals. They are always considering what they can do for their patrons and for everybody that is a part of it, they have so many amenities and there is always something extra to reward you for the time that you have invested in it. And it’s not about just any one particular thing, it’s about being there together to celebrate the true magic that happens out there. I can’t wait to get back on those beautiful fields. Magic is definitely in the air. We are really excited to reward a bunch of people for coming and being a part of it!
The way I see it, there are festivals and then there are experiences and Electric Forest is definitely an experience. We are looking forward to being a part of it and seeing you guys on Thursday!
You all as well!
So there you have it guys! Let’s all make a commitment to contribute back to those that have put in so much time and effort to provide us with such an amazing experience. This is an excellent time and place to start putting practices like this into place because being conscientious of our environment in these ways will start to affect how we act in our day to day lives as well, not just at festivals. Every little bit truly does count and it’s time we start making our own positive imprint on the world. See you in the Forest!
Festpop Staff Writer: Lindsay Shearon