Bonnaroo Music & Art Festival Negates Environmental Impact
(Photo from Bonnaroo Website)
In its nine years of existence Bonnaroo has become the biggest festival of its kind East of the Mississippi. Although, truth be told there really is no festival quite like Bonnaroo. It’s more than just a celebration of music. It’s a celebration of film. It’s a celebration of comedy. And it’s also a celebration of the earth.
361 days out of the year the population of Manchester, Tennessee is about 10,000. The other four days the population spikes to approximately 80,000 when the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival descends on the town. Not that the town is about to complain, as Manchester has become as synonymous with Bonnaroo as Park City is with Sundance.
Bonnaroo’s commitment to the environment is not mere lip service. According to one of the festival’s founders, Rick Farman, caring for the environment, and sustainability in particular, is “just part of our DNA. It’s who we are and what our core audience cares about. “
The on-site headquarters for fans is Planet Roo, where concert-goers can learn about what they can do to help the environment during and after their time at Bonnaroo. A major attraction at Planet Roo is the Clean Vibes Trading Post. Fans can turn in bottles, cans and other recyclables there in exchange for vouchers which can then be used toward the purchase of organic clothing, environmentally-conscious health and beauty goods or autographed merchandise. While standing in line they can page through a festival program that’s made from 100% recycled paper.
But the major breakthrough in terms of sustainability festival came last year when Bonnaroo was able to reduce its generator use by 70% thanks to the construction of electrical installations which were linked to a nearby grid from the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Since buying the property on which the festival was held a few years earlier, festival organizers had been looking for ways to lower their long term price tag on energy costs as well as limiting their environmental foot print.
So, after negotiations and meeting with stakeholders, Farman and his partners decided to lay cables in the ground to connect the property electrically to the neighboring Duck River Electric Membership Corporation.
Despite the fact that Bonnaroo operates off of a single electrical meter, the festival’s needs were not that of the typical energy consumer and revamping the electrical system was not a minor undertaking. For one weekend a year, “We’re like a NASCAR track in terms of our electrical usage,” Farman says.
Architects and engineers were summoned before the ground was dug up and the connection was made. The project, though elaborate from a logistical standpoint, was wrapped up in less than four months. “It was actually pretty straightforward and we didn’t have any real delays.” Farman says.
Once installed, the change allowed Bonnaroo to replace the many generators on the property and switch its fleet of golf carts from gas to electric, which moved the festival a little closer to its ultimate goal of being fully sustainable.
The new layout also frees up opportunities in terms of renewable energy sources.
“In three years we’d like to have three, 22KW solar arrays, “says Sustainability Coordinator Laura Sohn. “Renewable energy is part of our overall mission. It is the second largest piece of our carbon footprint, second only to travel. “
“We want to get to the point where, in terms of energy, we put in just as much as we take out,” says Farman. “It’s the right thing to do environmentally and economically.”
At Bonnaroo, the creativity and innovation is not limited to the performers on stage, it’s also present in those working behind the scenes to make the festival as energy-efficient and as environmentally-friendly as possible.
This year’s Bonnaroo is from June 10-13. Fans coming from the west are advised to come to Manchester through Nashville which is about an hour to the north. Fans coming from the east are advised to come to Manchester through Chattanooga which is about an hour to the south. General admission tickets are $257.60 while supplies last. Once those are sold out, ticket prices bump to $272.60.