Home' Nova West : May 2010 Contents Shout
8 © NOVA MAY 2010
Large crowds, and even
larger amounts of litter, are
an environmental challenge
for community festivals
around the country. Adrian
Glamorgan reveals the
determined effort to 'go
greener' at Fairbridge. Just after Easter every year, the heritage
village of Fairbridge south of Perth is
turned over to a three day celebration
of music, a marvellous community
festival that attracts thousands of day
visitors and weekend campers. People
come to enjoy world class acts, relish local
talent, stroll among the market and art
stalls, take in the buskers, and generally
pick up the inclusive, friendly community
vibe. Like many of these music festivals,
across the country from Kangaroo Valley to
Candelo, from Fleurieu to Numeralla, it's
easy to have a good time. It's a picture of
how good it is for we humans to share time
But while Fairbridge Festival is a model
for social sustainability, it has not yet made
the same environmental advances as other
larger national music events like New Year 's
Woodford in Queensland and the Easter
time National Folk Festival in Canberra.
Thousands come to Fairbridge: they drive
down from the city, and when they get to
the dusty outdoors site, these thousands
camp and consume water and electricity
and leave behind waste and plastic
containers and food scraps.
It's been a musical celebration, a
weekend of fun, but a weekend of waste,
too. It's a picture of our time on earth,
each one of us, our footprint on the planet.
Everyone wants to be environmentally
friendly. But everyone wants someone else
to organise it, and make it easy. We need
Something had to be done, by
somebody. For the last two years,
sustainability entrepreneur Robyn
Williams has championed a new kind of
Fairbridge Festival, one that is not just
socially sustainable, but environmentally
sustainable as well. It's no easy task, as we
shall see, because all this work is done by
unpaid volunteers, who are working with
their fellow festival enthusiasts, creating
new structures, encouraging audiences and
explaining to vendors, helping finding ways
to "shout sustainability", as Robyn merrily
In the Sustainability Tent on Saturday,
among the educational displays, a volunteer
Jacinta says, "It's a passion!" Jacinta explains
she is interested in "reducing, reusing and
recycling in any way I can, making it more
a focus of my life." Back in the city, by
composting and minimising consumption
and packaging, her household manages
to put out the ordinary and recyclable bins
once every six to eight weeks, and "that
just makes me think, well, I come down
to enjoy this lovely festival here, what can
I do to also bring this philosophy here? I
love the fact that Fairbridge is taking it up...
The young volunteer explains that
there are a lot of bins set up this year for
composting, also bottle and can cages,
and then plastic recycling bins. "The other
initiative I know of is the Zim ride, people
can use public transport to come to the
festival...I'm very encouraged that a lot of
people have been very enthusiastic. Many
comments are along the lines of 'Well it's
It's easy to think, "it's about time,"
but someone has to make the move. In
Fairbridge's case, it's Robyn Williams, so
I catch up with her after she's the first of
several sustainability speakers at the festival,
starting conversations on items from
organic gardening to worm culture. Robyn
is the first to explain she's building on the
strong social sustainability of the festival,
and last year began making education the
"We developed the 'brand name', I
suppose, 'Shout sustainability'." This year
the focus is waste. Recognition is given
to caterers taking initiatives; individuals
are encouraged to come up with ideas for
improving sustainability at Fairbridge.
Others have been here before. The team
is using a guide called "The Six Stringed
Strategy" particularly designed for musical
events. "It's very comprehensive. Produce
no waste is the first step; to use 100%
renewable energy; to use resource-efficient
transportation; to work with sustainable
stakeholders; create an atmosphere of
inclusion and respect; and also to drive
societal change towards sustainability."
The big challenge is to get people to
put the right containers in the right bins.
"It's a work in progress, as you might
understand," says Robyn. "We're making it
hopefully more visible, putting up signage
that's easier to understand, trying to keep
But not all caterers have undertaken
the transition to common compostable
containers yet, and until that happens, it
can be confusing to distinguish between
different takeaway containers, plates and
"It has to be really simple. People
'The big challenge is to
get people to put the right
containers in the right bins.'
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