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December 15, 2010

Reportage Enviro

Peats Ridge goes Green

The saying “take only pictures, steal only time, leave only footprints” isn’t one you would normally associate with a three-day music festival – that is, until now. Nicky Champ discovers how Peats Ridge is environmentally redefining music festivals.

The Peats Ridge Festival held over the New Year period in the NSW Glenworth Valley has one of the highest event recycling rates in Australia, possibly even the world.

“For our recyclable materials, we have a return rate of about 85-90%,” says Nic Moodie, the Festival’s sustainability manager.

That is no mean feat for a music festival, the aftermath of Woodstock took weeks to clean up, and even then the rubbish was bulldozed into a pit and the garbage burned. Fast forward 40 years and the festival folk at Peats Ridge are making sure that we can have a good time and an environmentally sustainable event.

The high recycling rates can be put down to the container deposit system the festival introduced in 2004. Which is a bit like collecting aluminum cans for a 5c coin, only a lot more lucrative.

A $1 levy is added on to all drink vessels sold at the event and when the empty containers are taken to one of the many return stations set up at the festival, the $1 is refunded.

“It not only encourages recycling, it also provides the opportunity for people to make an income,” says Moodie.

With 120 musical acts scheduled to play over the three days the Festival’s environmental consciousness extends beyond recycling programs; the Eco Living Village is dedicated to educating individuals in developing practical ways of living sustainably.

These free workshops have been met with great success over the years and go on to have a positive effect on the patrons’ behavior around the environment long after they leave.

“90% of people come away from the Festival with more knowledge about living sustainably than they had before they came,” says Moodie.

This year Peats Ridge consulted with toilet experts Splashdown, (from the movie Kenny) to develop a world first, composting flushable toilets.

Now, before you conjure up any nightmare toilet scenarios you may have experienced at festivals past. Know this, there is also going to be eight full-time staff to constantly clean the amenities throughout the event.

Since the Festivals inception in 2004 it has been the aim of the founder Matt Grant to create an event that marries sustainability with art, music and a rollicking great time – not to mention great toilets.

“We want people to live the life for a few days and not only have an incredible time, but to also come away thinking that sustainability can be a bit rock’n’roll as well,” says Moodie.

Festival goers may notice the solar powered stage sets look remotely familiar, that is, if you are a seasoned theatre goer. As chances are they came straight from the sets of the Belvoir Theatre or the NIDA in Sydney. The festival teams up with these theatre companies to reuse their old sets and at the same time helping them to reduce their waste to landfill.

This mutual relationship is one that the festival creates with many of their suppliers as well the local community. A vehicle levy for all cars coming to the event is spent on site remediation and carbon credits to offset the audience’s transport emissions. It’s recommended that you carpool or train it to Hornsby station where a shuttle will take you to the event. Or if you bike, a chaperoned ‘bike bus’ ensures you can take all your camping gear on the bus escort and cycle along the F3 highway in safety.

So whether music, juggling, hula hooping or can collecting is your thing, the organisers at Peats Ridge have ensured that the only footprints you leave at the Festival will be environmentally sustainable ones.


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