“Do you want to help a project progressing sustainability initiatives at EDM festivals?” Kevin Keleher asked with a wide-eyed, excited smile. His energy was contagious, but I was only hesitant because I had no idea what EDM meant. After I found out EDM meant Electronic Dance Music, my enthusiasm died down a little because it was not my genre. But I was considering the offer because the amount of festivals each year is growing, and sustainability initiatives can easily be adopted to other events. Thinking about the scalable and duplicable opportunities from the project, I shouted back to Kevin, “Let’s rock our role!”
Kevin brought this project to GreenLight Solutions, a student-led sustainability collaborator for business, nonprofit, and government organizations, through his friendship with Lyle Maxson and Samuel Wiseman, the operators of The 2 Courtiers. They coordinate vendors and sponsors for EDM festivals, but they take pride in having a position to elevate the EDM scene by only partnering with companies that reflect their core values of humanity, artistry, technology, and spirituality. This virtuous mission is what brought the smile to Kevin’s face along with myself because we heard a calling for sustainability initiatives that could be answered by GreenLight Solutions.
To prepare for the project, I worked with a GreenLight Solutions student team to research notable accomplishments and obstacles in Event Greening. We defined four components of the scope:
- Material: life cycle assessments
- Energy: use and source
- Traffic: carbon footprint from commuters
- Activism: sustainability outreach
To see what we have to work with, I went with Kevin to my first EDM Festival – The 2 Courtier’s Dirty Disco. I was warned beforehand that I was going to enter another world, and this world lived on PLUR – Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect. Not a bad start for a market we were looking to adopt our sustainability initiatives; but I was a little skeptical because if this market was so into sustainability, it would have been done already.
I learned there have been noteworthy accomplishments such as EDM festivals requiring food vendors to only distribute reusable or compostable foodware, or zero waste clothing vendors that reuse bags and tags. However, these practices are not (yet) universally used because even the PLUR market is characterized by the adoptability curve – there are the innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards. The noteworthy accomplishments simply exemplify the innovators. Meanwhile, a laggard vender would have a box of stuff not made locally, used for a small time, and then thrown into a landfill while possibly containing hazardous waste such as mercury. Outside of the vendor market, the spectrum of the consumer market also exhibits the adoptability curve. Innovators held reusable bottles in their cross-shoulder strap. Laggards threw cigarettes and single-use items to the ground.
As a sustainability promoter, I see the EDM festival scene with the same hopes and strategy towards society because of the characteristics of the adoption curve. Modifying behavior is a matter of making the better choice the easier or only option. Event Greening has already executed this strategy by providing only multiuse or compostable foodware, or by taking the bags and tags out of the consumers’ hands at the time of purchase. There is still a lot more to be done, with respect to material, energy, traffic, and activism. But I feel on the right track because, as said by John Dewey, “a problem well put is half solved.” My well-stated problems allowed me to see innovative answers. They are not currently used throughout events or society, but a spark of innovation only needs a fan to turn to a wildfire.