Archive for Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Event’s environmental impact being assessed by KU auditors

June 12, 2007


The Wakarusa Music Festival is done - but the cleaning has just begun

Campers began straggling out of town this morning - and many of them were looking to hitch a ride. But as the music fans head back home - or to the next concert - the real job is just starting. Enlarge video

Each year, it gets a little greener.

But can a massive event such as the Wakarusa Music & Camping Festival, which attracts people from across the country, ever have zero impact on the environment and meet organizers' goal of 100 percent sustainability?

"As long as people are flying here and driving in gas-powered automobiles, that in and of itself would make it not 100 percent sustainable," said Jeff Severin, director of Kansas University's Center for Sustainability, who conducted a "sustainability audit" of the festival this year at organizers' request.

"One hundred percent sustainable is pretty difficult to achieve," Severin said. "If you're looking at it from that perspective, every product sold would be something that was made locally within 50 to 100 miles of Lawrence. Every bit of waste that's created would either be recycled or composted or reused in some way."

Severin and two other graduate students in urban planning spent the weekend observing the festival's operations and interviewing campers. In coming weeks, they'll write a report that includes data - such as how much electricity and water were used, the effect on the local economy and to what extent people participated in recycling.

A few early observations: Recycling seemed to be widespread inside the festival grounds, but in the campground areas, there was plenty of recyclable material in the trash, Severin said.

He said that perhaps the biggest single issue to tackle is the energy used to power the festival - even though the 18 generators ran on a biodiesel blend for the first time this year, and it was the second year organizers have bought "green tags" to offset their carbon output with the production of renewable resources.

"I got this from a lot of the festivalgoers: that compared to other festivals that people have attended, these guys are doing a great job and really making an effort. I think they're really on the right track," Severin said.

Last year, an estimated 20 percent of the volume of waste generated at the festival was recycled, but that didn't include glass, which can be difficult to transport and doesn't fetch a good price in Kansas. This year, glass is in the mix of what's being recycled, but as of Monday it was too early to estimate how much total waste would be recycled, said Rylan Ortiz, who runs the Recycalusa program at the festival.

The plastic New Belgium beer cups used at the festival, made of high-density polyethylene, will be taken to Concordia and sold for use in making picnic tables, Ortiz said.

Jami Sweeney, one of the festival's assistant directors, said he's looked into powering one of the festival's stages through solar or wind energy, but at this point nothing exists that would be reliable enough for the job.

"Those generators are a necessary evil at this point until technology catches up with us," he said.

Composting, too, has proven to be a challenge. Vendors were required to use special utensils and plates this year with the goal that they would be composted along with food waste, but organizers said they realized as the festival neared that no one in the area was equipped to process the material.

As far as car travel goes, an estimated 400 festivalgoers chose to offset the carbon output of their drive by buying "green tags" that support renewable energy. About 100 people bought the tags last year.

"We could easily offset people's travel. It's fairly cheap. It's something we could roll into a ticket price," Sweeney said. "We prefer to give people a choice."

Sarah Hill-Nelson of Lawrence-based Zephyr Energy, which sells wind and hydroelectric power through the "green tag" program, said car travel is a problem inherent to the festival.

"The flip side of that is that people drive there and they don't get in their car for four days," she said.


kmat 10 years, 10 months ago

Marion - you're ignorant when it comes to this. Do some research before sounding off. A green tag is bought to offset the carbon you produce by driving, flying, etc.... Many of us have been doing this before it became "big news" last year. It's simple - you use X amount of gas, electricity, etc.... and you invest in renewable energy forms to offset it (wind farms for example).

The festival itself is a joke. The green tags are not. If you give a rats ass about this planet and what you are leaving behind for your kids, you'll look into it.

Native Americans have always had the correct idea - leave behind only your footsteps.

minko224 10 years, 10 months ago

I found that many of the festival goers were conserving quite a bit, many were disposing of leaves and branches by burning them discreetly in out of the way places and then even holding the smoke in so as not to pollute the wonderful planet we live on. God bless those people!

kmat 10 years, 10 months ago

Great sources Marion! Blogs! That's where the facts are! Ha ha ha ha ha .

You are clueless and can just never admit you are. You're old and will be gone long before the rest of us have to suffer through what you have done.

Educate yourself. I know it's hard to teach an old dog some new tricks, but hopefully you can still read and learn something and help the planet out at the same time.

Did you actually look at your links. The Green Journal article is about companies using green tags. You can't even do your research trying to prove your incorrect point.

The EPA even invests in green tags. The Dept of Energy is behind them. Many major corporations purchase them (including the company I work for). I've visited a wind farm in OK funded completely by green tags. Instead of green tags, many of us can purchase our energy from green sources as well. You just don't have a clue what you are talking about, as usual.

Stop talking out of your ass.

cowboy 10 years, 10 months ago

ban alcohol and drugs and see how long the festival lasts , while many defend the environment and preach health foods and heap scorn on smokers they love these drug fests !

I'm not against them but the apparent conflicts are pretty obvious.

REO 10 years, 9 months ago

Recycalusa is run by a K-State non-profit organization called Students for Environmental Action (SEA). The managers from Recycalusa are also students at K-State. Their job is to move the waste generated by festival attendants at the festival and recycle those items. They have a close relationship with two local Lawrence recycling companies who donate their equipment for sorting and hauling. They are also heavily involved with setting up the park for recycling and cleaning up the park after the festival. This is SEA's third year running and operating this program.

Bubbles 10 years, 9 months ago

"Native Americans have always had the correct idea - leave behind only your footsteps."

I always wondered what the Native American word for "Casino" was. Footsteps.

gr 10 years, 9 months ago

"Then how can there be anthropologists who study Native American cultures?"

Sorry, Das, can't resist: Why through billions of years, molecules join together (not randomly, but through directed randomness) to form these supposed artifacts.


"It's simple - you use X amount of gas, electricity, etc:. and you invest in renewable energy forms to offset it"

In other words, you rape the earth, but you pay an indulgence fee so you "feel" ok doing it and someone else profits from it.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.