If you’ve ever been to a music festival an joined thousands of others to watch your favourite artistes live, you probably have memories of it that will last a lifetime. Unfortunately, music festivals world over get a bad rap for the huge negative impact they have on the environment. Burning Man 2015, for instance, was estimated to have released at least 49,000 tons of greenhouse gases which is about how much the nation of Swaziland (population 1.2 million) produces in a week!
The growing popularity of multi-day music festivals like Magnetic Fields, Sunburn, and Ziro in India are putting increasing pressure on the ecology and infrastructure of often ecologically sensitive regions. Such events, through the waste they generate, the resources they require on-site, and the energy to transport people to the venue and accommodate them for several days, have huge direct and indirect impacts on the environment.
In a positive step globally, many examples exist of festivals cleaning up their act and putting measures in place to become more eco-friendly. By becoming members of the UN’s Music and Environment initiative, festivals like Portugal’s Boom and Norway’s Hove have minimised their carbon footprints significantly and Burning Man is well-known for its Leave No Trace policy. Sadly, such steps are absent in Indian music festivals.
Echoes of Earth, India’s first ‘ecologically crafted’ music festival, wants to correct the record. The event, which will see 8,000-10,000 fans converge in Bangalore, will focus on spreading the message of eco-friendly living and on reducing its own waste, water, and electricity usage.
The venue is a 150-acre outdoor space which has been declared a no-plastic, zero-waste zone for the days of the event. With overnight camping options available and a lineup featuring a mix of much-loved Indian and international artistes including Madboy Mink, Soulmate, The F16s, and Submotion Orchestra, Echoes of Earth promises to be as good an outdoor festival experience as any.
“Because it is speaks a universal language, music can communicate many messages,” says Roshan Netalkar, founder of Swordfish Events & Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. and director of the festival. Through the two-day event, he hopes to galvanise the audience of conscientious people into thinking about their impact on the environment and taking steps to minimise it.
Festival guests are encouraged to bring reusable water bottles and refill them at water filters provided across the venue. Food stalls will exclusively use biodegradable, bagasse-based cutlery that will be composted after use. Swordfish has partnered with Hasiru Dala, a waste management service to minimise its waste as much as possible and to ensure that all waste generated is segregated threeways on site and treated appropriately. All food waste from the event will be composted in on-site pits and used in a sapling drive while recyclable waste will be sent to municipal waste centres.
An event of this scale produces an enormous amount of pre-event waste in the form of infrastructure and marketing collateral. “Most of our infrastructure is borrowed or has been upcycled from used material. We have not made anything new or used any virgin resources,” Netalkar explains. One of the stages, for instance, reuses secondhand saris while another has been assembled with old drainage pipes, bamboo, and metal structures borrowed from a scrapyard. In keeping with its land-to-land philosophy, a bar and various installations have been put together using fallen branches and twigs from the venue.
He points out that the most environmentally damaging aspect of such festivals is the printed, single-use collateral. Keeping this in mind, Echoes of Earth uses recycled flex for hoardings and banners.
Live entertainment requires a great deal of power which is the organisers’ biggest concern. In order to meet artistes’ technical requirements without compromising on the quality of the festival experience, Echoes of Earth relies for the most part on conventional energy. But, the organisers are looking to providers of biofuel generators to power the 3 stages and for general lighting purposes.
A series of workshops on composting and gardening will engage attendees across age groups with tips on adopting sustainable practices in their daily lives. The team is also going the extra mile to source as much organic food as possible from NGOs such as Timbaktu. Also part of the event is a museum displaying the disappearing musical traditions and instruments of India. Folk artistes from across the country will showcase their art at the venue.
Being the first of its kind in India, the carbon footprint of such an event is yet to be estimated so that targeted efforts can be made to lower them. The organising team of Echoes of Earth admits that a lot remains a lot to be done to further green such large scale events, and that they are in for the long haul. Says Netalkar, “The green theme of the event has struck a chord with all the performing artistes who will reinforce the message of sustainability. But, without the support and cooperation of the people who attend, we cannot be successful in our mission.”
It’s been a long time coming for a festival such as this and we hope its message of sustainability sets the trend for all events that follow.
Echoes of Earth takes place in Bangalore on the 26th and 27th of November and is a family-friendly event. For details on the line-up, how to become a volunteer at the event, and to buy tickets, visit their website here.