5 Ways Lightning in a Bottle is Leading the Way for Sustainable Festivals

Last weekend in central California, Lightning in a Bottle undertook its 12th edition. With approximately 20,000 people attending every year, LIB has become the centerpoint of the “transformational” movement, a worldwide circuit of festivals underpinned by a philosophy that prioritizes alternative lifestyles and independent music. With a teeming calendar of talks and lectures during the day in addition to its 5-stage, 4-night musical line-up, it’s part of the festival’s mission to offer more than just hedonism. LIB organizers The Do LaB—who also put on their own stage at Coachella every year—make it a central part of their mission to imbue attendees with a sense of responsibility for nature, humanity, and progressive thought. Along the way, Lightning in a Bottle has become one of the most sustainable festivals in the world.Here are some of the simple ways that LIB is leading the way for sustainable festivals….

Pack in, Pack Out

A central tenet of Lightning in a Bottle and every “transformational” camping festival is the “Pack in, Pack Out” policy. Attendees are encouraged through literature and word-of-mouth to be mindful of their trash and take on responsibility for their own waste. It has become a social expectation that campers clean up their campsite prior to departure.
Leaving the festival, there is a full-scale pop-up trash deposit operation on the side of the road, where departing revellers can dispose of their filled up trash bags. Even though a policy like this can never be enforced 100%, the idea has become so ingrained in LIB attendees that it has significantly decreased the waste left on the grounds as compared to mainstream festivals.

Energy Saving

The Do LaB’s energy saving techniques manifest in every aspect of the production. Energy-saving LED lights are preferred for lightning on stage, biodiesel fuel run light towers, generators, camping shuttles, and crew vehicles.Lightning in a Bottle also uses hybrid solar and wind generators for power—the cell phone re-charging stations dotted around the grounds are even solar-powered! As a campout festival, the energy use from daily vehicular traffic and the wasteful hospitality industry are completely eliminated. You’d be surprised how much energy and water 20,000 individuals abstaining from electricity, vehicles, and showers can save!

Carbon Offsets

Any energy that the Lightning in a Bottle cannot eliminate is paid back by The Do LaB through carbon offsets, donations made to organizations that reduce carbon emissions. They even keep their contributions local. In 2016, the festival donated to Fiscalini Dairy Farm in nearby Modesto, CA.The farm operates an “anaerobic digester system” that actually captures methane from cows and turns it into energy to run the farm. It’s fair to say that Lighting in a Bottle actually gives back more energy than it uses.

3-Tier Trash

The fields of trash left over at most festivals is enough to make any sustainability advocate despair. At Lightning in a Bottle, trash receptacles are arranged into three bins: landfill, recyclables, and compost. Organic waste (all cups used at LIB vendors included) go in the compost bin, where they can be recycled to grow crops. Recyclables, like cans and plastic, go in the second bin. Everything else goes in the landfill. With all three trash bins sat next to each other and clear signage that states what goes where, LIB makes it so easy to be sustainably conscious that there’s no excuse or reason for doing otherwise.

Vegetarian Options

Although you can find chicken at certain vendors at Lightning in a Bottle, the vast majority of food options are entirely vegetarian or vegan. Cutting beef from the menu by itself is a huge contribution to energy-saving endeavors. The statistics are startling: It takes 2,500 gallons of water to produce a pound of meat, but only 25 gallons to produce a pound of wheat. In fact, producing a single hamburger burns through enough fossil fuel to drive a small car 20 miles. Suddenly, that quinoa salad sounds a lot more tasty! Even with that said, it’s more than just veggie-dogs at LIB. The festival’s commitment to a meat-free diet has brought in some of the most creative vegetarian chefs on the West Coast, who are showing people that eating sustainably doesn’t have to come at the cost of taste or price.

Free Water

Massive amounts of water are consumed at festivals—The weather is often hot, people are running around and dancing, and alcohol can dehydrate the body very quickly. How a festival prices water shows a lot about their perspective. Lightning in a Bottle gives away water for free.This policy isn’t just a smart move in terms of health and safety, it’s also the most sustainable way to provide water at all. With zero waste and no shipping costs, it’s also a useful cost-saving mechanism. Getting attendees in the habit of bringing their own water bottles, thus embodying a sustainable practice, is an effective method of onboarding neophytes to a sustainably conscious perspective.



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