25, 26, 27 October
As our small festival has grown, so has our footprint on the environment. While most of the patrons, musicians, stall vendors and volunteers attending the DF&BF are environmentally conscious, in 2015 we saw the need to implement some Festival policies that allowed us to gradually reduce our environmental impact and sustain our festival environment.
In 2015 we began with a policy for all Food Vendors to use only biodegradable containers, cutlery and cups. We were able to provide evidence that these materials aren’t more costly than plastics and all Food Vendors were happy to cooperate.
In 2016 we introduced Rubbish Rooms. For these we set up gazebos with 3 different bins: Compostable (biodegradable cups, plates and cutlery), Recycling (accepts plastics 1-7) and General Rubbish (mostly rubbish brought in with patrons). These are operated by Volunteers to help patrons place their rubbish into the correct bin. We appreciate the 30 seconds it takes to match the rubbish item with the correct bin. Every little item in the right bin helps the earth. We are working to gain the Bellingen Shire Councils support to purchase labelled bin lids that can be used by different community events, as this is an educational method of directing waste to the correct destination. We’d like to thank the Blue Mountains Music Festival for sharing the idea and equipment since 2016.
Food Scrap bins were provided for Food Vendors to directly place any scraps into (at this stage patrons were still placing food scraps into Rubbish Rooms). Our Director, Bridget, took all the food waste from these bins home to compost and use in her gardens.
In 2017 we introduced Keep Cup Walls to the Festival Site. Leading up to the festival we purchased mugs from charity shops. We placed these on A frame boards we built for the mugs to hang on using hooks. We invited patrons to take a mug to purchase their drinks in, and then return the mugs to a container in the A frame which our volunteers would then collect, wash and return to the board for re-use.
In 2018 we were able to completely ban the sale of single use plastic water bottles, straws, and aluminium cans. We already had filtered water stations (provided by the Bellingen Shire Council since 2016) around the festival site and were able to further support this move by selling reusable stainless steel water bottles in our merchandise shop and installing more keep cup walls. Some food vendors made delicious homemade cordials and juices to replace soft drinks sold in cans.
Our official Festival Site is alcohol free (except for the campgrounds) which helps reduce the amount of recycling drastically and encourages a safe family atmosphere. Campers are asked to either take their cans and bottles home or deliver them to a Rubbish Room. The Festival then sorts and donates these cans and bottles to local youth and community groups who take them to Return and Earn stations. Every eligible bottle, can or carton returned is worth 10 cents. Machines offer cash vouchers, electronic payment or the option to donate.
Wine bottles are not accepted in the Return and Earn stations but there is always a local wanting to create a structure using bottles and clay.
In 2019 we discovered that the Coffs Waste (our local waste management) composting system doesn’t process biodegradable cups, plates or utensils despite them being compostable, and would only accept food scraps. However we weren’t defeated; read below.
The Dandarrga Landcare are an enthusiastic group of volunteers with skills in bush regeneration, propagation of rainforest species, project management and community education. Their goals are to encourage and assist local landowners and property managers with weed control and bush regeneration, catalogue and share information about local native rainforest species and provide access to local native seedlings and seed stock, by establishing a rainforest nursery. One of their projects has been replanting the Showgrounds.
The Dorrigo Seed Savers took all food scraps from the Rubbish Rooms to create compost to feed their plants with, and all biodegradable containers (most of these are a bamboo product) went through their mulching machine to create mulch to protect their plants. By this stage we had seperate bins in the Rubbish Rooms for food scraps and biodegradable containers and cutlery so that people could scrape their plates before depositing them.
In addition to this as a part of our Festival workshop programme, Dandarrga Landcare ran a workshop for kids teaching them how to transplant a native tree into a biodegradable cup which they could take home and plant. All festival patrons were invited to attend as the Dandarrga Landcare and Dorrigo Seed Savers groups talked about creating composts and the work they do in the local area.
After this our local Aboriginal Elder told stories from the dreaming related to the local environment to encourage people to understand and nurture it.
In 2023, we continue with these simple steps in place to continue being as environmentally friendly as possible with just a few small changes to keep up with todays health standards. We are no longer able to provide our Keep-Cup walls, instead we encourage all patrons, volunteers, performers and crew to bring a refillable water bottle and mug for their water and hot drinks. Our Rubbish Rooms are now called Green Stations but operate just the same! Dandarrga Landcare and Dorrigo Seedsavers are amazing collaborators and process our food waste and compostable waste into compost and mulch.
With community support and open minds, these simple policies can easily be adapted to suit larger festivals that might have a larger ecological footprint.
The Dorrigo Folk & Bluegrass Festival plans to continue these policies with improvements along the way. Our future sustainability goals are to use only re-usable containers and cutlery, next up are plates and cutlery, to reduce plastic waste used during Festival set-up and reach a point where the Festival does not need General Waste bins.
How can you help?
Bring your own reusable:
- Coffee mug, water bottle, plate
- Grocery bags
(The DF&BF sells reusable stainless steel water bottles and tote bags in the Merchandise Shop).
Leave at home:
- foods wrapped in plastic or leave additional packaging at home and repack into reusable containers
- alcohol cans and bottles from your campsite
- plastic rubbish- this way the Festival will limit contributions to Dorrigo Landfill and will be closer to eliminating General Waste Bins
As a musician or performer:
- request that other festivals, events and venues provide you the means to be environmentally friendly and sustainable i.e. in your rider and contract request Filtered Water Refill stations, biodegradable food containers in backstage/green room areas and locally grown food from small businesses.