Monday, July 27, 2015

Jars over corn.....single use disposable musings at #VanFolkFest2015

Naturally, I was super stoked to see this sign upon first arriving to the Vancouver Folk Music Festival  this year.... and further stoked to see the actual volunteers (not shown in current photo), at each "nutrient station" helping folks put their stuff in right bin (getting them out of that auto-pilot-must-put-in-garbage mode).  I'm super grateful for those lovely beings who helped out and dedicated their time to stand out in the heat of the day helping people manage their items deemed no longer usable. THANK-YOU! :)

I also want to add a disclaimer, in case it's not evident through my words, that what I'm about to say is merely to raise awareness, and discussion, and food for thought - it is not to point fingers, or make people feel crappy because we have enough of that in this world....and what we need now is to find ways to work together. This isn't about bad-mouthing the folk fest, I love Folk's about furthering a conversation, around waste in this instance ( there's actually a few other items I wanted to talk about too with Folk Fest too...) so that we can be together, pamoja, and improve our systems more and more, with the more information/experience/emotion we gain!

I will also say, coodos to having implemented the policy of not selling ANY bottled water this year at folk fest and encouraging folks to bring their own bottle and having ample fill-up stations with healthy, Vancouver water - tested way more frequently than bottled water anyhow.

I was a bit surprised, though, that "landfill" was an option, considering zero waste really waste...and the images depicted within that red area on the bottom right, all have homes....

  1. Bringing your own re-useable cup/mug/jar/multipurpose anything
  2. Bringing your own re-usable bag (why are plastic bags not banned GLOBALLY yet, by golly!)
  3. Misc wrappers....ok, well this one I'm a bit conflicted about because I think that this stuff that comes wrapped in foil lined plastic should simply be banned, and we should have to go back to the drawing board to design packaging like nature #naturehasnowaste, packaging like....a Banana Peel, or an Egg Shell - both good at protecting what's inside from keeping it fresh, (egg shell even longer!), and will decompose at a natural rate...and give back to the earth when it does.... are so smart. 

The festival also had a receptacle for cups! so the cups on the landfill portion of the Zero-Hero sign was confusing....

At my work we talk a lot about having clear, consistent messaging with regards to recycling, and I can see why.... either the Zero-Hero folks didn't talk to the Festival Guide folks, or it was a matter of re-using signage....which is of course, great to re-use! because re-using for the win....but communication between areas would have saved a lot of confusion.... even as simple as, covering up the coffee cup with this image.... and/or also encourage bringing ones own mug... and/or maybe just covering up the landfill part all together ;) pack it in, pack it out?

I digress, because my post was actually about what happened when I stepped foot into the beer garden.......and my heart broke a little....

Rewind a few hours....

At home preparing to head off to Jericho Beach....running through my relatively automatic series of ponderings on what to bring based on what I may encounter that day.....ensuring I have my cutlery, a container, coffee mug, water bottle etc - most of this already in my bag so no biggie...but then I remembered the potential for beer in the beer garden.....beers on a nice summer day whilst watching music is always a fantastical treat.

"Beer Gardens"...., I proclaimed......"We will need our own cups!" ....

Though shortly thereafter an emotion of dread and pain in my heart came over me....they won't let us use our own cups... :(

Flooded with many a memory of beer gardens past ....having been denied a brew in my own cup, rejected, as the line behind me of impatient-beer-seekers increased....pushing me along, scoffing at my silly ways. . . it hurts a little inside each time, but I have to keep trying..that keeps me sane.

Well, this year may be different! I thought, somewhat hesitantly and not really believing my words....It's folk fest, after all! .....they are more chill, aware, vocal about waste.... and whatever we grabbed two cups, added it to the rest of our items and went on our way....though a fear inside me lingered....worried for what I would encounter later, when I would try to use my own cup.

I'm sure you can guess what happened, because I likely wouldn't be writting this big thing had it gone the way I had hoped.

We got out tickets and handed them to the woman behind the counter, explaining that...we brought our own cups, can we use them? :D


She went through the series of reasons that are actually not reasons at all (namely Health Canada....but we know that's not true, Jenn and Grant taught us that)...and justifications on why it's "ok" or not that bad at all to use single-use disposables (it's corn, and they decompose!!).

"Yes.. but... we're right by the ocean! And look at all the cups!! "....does no-one see the connection?!?! Piles and piles of cups ...all for a beer that lasts a matter of minutes in the hot sun?

Rows and rows of genetically modified corn crops grown for this brief  experience? Chemicals sprayed on the fields, harming not only our lands and soils, but the people whose job it is to spray those harsh toxins, the communities who live by these fields, the animals who drink from the waters, and the lives that have been displaced to make room for more and more could-be-food crops for an ever increasing amount of single-use disposables to be made from something that generates a-little-less-guilt when we use it up...... be used to hold, only to be tossed in a matter of minutes.

What struck a bit harder too was the fact that this festival was actually trying.... and yet, such a significant aspect was not being recognized, or deemed appropriate because "We can compost them!!".Which is extremetly short-sighted and not considering the larger picture.

I don't blame's easy to buy into the compostable craze... I get it, and yes, it's arguably better than plastic...but what is our end goal here? What are we ultimately comparing it to?

Especially when we use it even more care-free cause we think, it's okay because hey, it isn't plastic? (a little Jevons paradox-y, no?) It gets composted... But we don't know or we don't think about the larger context, and what had to happen in our world to bring that cup into our hand....for one.brief.moment. All the energy and resources that went into making that one cup!

Growing, petrochemicals, transportation, soil depletion, harvesting, more petrochemicals, fossil fuels, more transport, blah blah.... it's insane actually...

It even says "we welcome your own cups" in the festival clearly there is some mixed messaging - I wish I had seen that prior to trying to order a beer, as I would have had it on hand to show them and re-request my cup be used.... 

Anyway the point of all this isn't to make them feel crappy or point fingers, because that helps no-one. I merely want to raise attention that.... 

We can figure out a method to allow folks to bring their own cups! I know we can!! 

If we allow guests to bring their own water bottles and refill them at their leisure, why can't we have the same system for beers? Sure it would be a bit of a re-jig of a process but ....why not? Isn't it worth it?

They have the return-it plate regime too and so clearly there are ways to use re-usable items in a safe, and fun way.

I will be contacting someone at the festival who deals with waste, to chat about options for next year as I was a bit too late for this year (also these kinds of conversations need to happen with millions of festivals, and it can get overwhelming, so please, join in! It takes all of us!). If anyone reading this knows who to speak to or is someone dealing with waste at the festival directly - please do let me know!

P.S - I don't think we have to re-invent the wheel......other festivals have done this, and places in Europe that are known for their beer festivals serve beer in re-usable let's get with the program North America!

And now... for some inspiration....!

Obtained Online - from "Just Add Cheese" Wordpress blog. :)