Recycle, or go folk yourself

By Amy Badry

As the Calgary Folk Music Festival turned 31 years old last week, it showed it’s still capable of introducing attendees to new ideas, musical or otherwise. This year the Folk Fest yet again increased the number of eco-initiatives at the festival.

One volunteer said the eco-friendly culture of Folk Fest had a major impact on her decision to volunteer.

“The eco-initiatives had a huge impact on my decision to become more involved,” said Folk Fest volunteer and U of C French and sociology student Keisha Russell. “I have been to other festivals much smaller than Folk Fest and I realised that doing the right thing environmentally does not have to be hard.”

For 14 years CFMF has been engaging in eco-initiatives to offset carbon emissions and reduce waste.

This year, the major initiative was to have Prince’s Island Park– where the festival was held– completely free of plastic water bottles. Food vendors could not sell water on the island and all performers, patrons and volunteers were encouraged to bring a reusable water bottle.

“People need water. There are very hot days and people get thirsty,” said eco-initiative manager Leor Rotchild. “But the Folk Fest culture does not support disposable water bottles. You can’t get bottled water anywhere on this island.”

The City of Calgary provided free tap water for the island’s use. Water stations were sponsored by TD bank.

The CFMF website said “This is not only an effort to reduce waste and recycling but an acknowledgement that water, as an essential requirement for life, should not be bottled and sold for profit.”

Russell thought it was a great idea and didn’t mind bringing her own water bottle.

“How many times have you gone out somewhere and needed to rehydrate really badly, but your only option was to buy an overpriced bottled water?” she said.

For the first time this year the CFMF was able to recycle plastics and co-mingle recycling for easier disposal. This was made possible through a partnership with the City of Calgary.

Volunteers were stationed at the 12 waste stations to ensure Folk Festival goers recycled, composted and threw waste into proper containers.

Rotchild said this has greatly reduced the amount of waste at the festival.

To further reduce the amount of waste all vendors were required to serve compostable cutlery.

According to a report put together by Green Calgary, a non-profit urban environmental organization, some vendors did not adhere to this requirement in past years. Last year Sugar Creek’s lemonade cups were regular plastic, Sunterra’s souffle cups and Tim Horton’s cups and lids were not compostable.

This led to compost bins being contaminated by non-compostable material.

The biggest eco-initiative Russell saw at Folk Fest this year was the plastic plates program. Patrons purchased a plastic plate for a toonie and then returned the plate to get their money back. The plates would then be washed and reused.

“The amount of waste they reduce by just washing and re-washing plates is great,” said Russell.

This program was launched in 2001.

Russell did find it awkward walking around the island with a plate of food, “but it lends to the organic feel of Folk Fest.”

Rotchild strives to create an unique atmosphere at the festival.

“It is a creative atmosphere here, not just sitting at stage but also interacting with what is here,” he said.

The social and environmental responsibility is part of the culture of Folk Fest, he said.

“We try to offset all needs we have.”

One of the ways Folk Fest does this is a tree seedlings program that allowed patrons to take home tree seedling to plant. The hope is that those trees will reduce the emissions created by artists’ bus and air travel.

“They put a lot of thought into how the Folk Festival is organised and on many different levels. I don’t think a lot of festivals even have eco-initiatives,” said Russell. “When you can see that the organisers are trying to do their part for the earth while musically doing their part for the soul, you can’t help but feel like this festival goes a little deeper than the rest.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story contained a phonetically induced spelling error. The Gauntlet apologizes for this error and any confusion it may have caused.

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