OPINION: Music Festival Season Is Upon Us - Don't Trash It... Literally

10 December 2019 | 1:47 pm | Berish Bilander

Green Music Australia (GMA) have launched the Party With The Planet initiative which strives to reduce the consumption and waste associated with Australia's music scene. In this opinion piece, GMA's Co-CEO and Campaigner, Berish Bilander, explains how we can get loose and still protect the planet ahead of the upcoming festival season.

Phew! Summer’s here, the holidays are in sight and our favourite festivals are just weeks away.

Finally we get to leave the mundane behind, kick off our work clothes and climb into something a little more exotic.

For many of us, music festivals are the perfect antidote to a long year of never-ending to-do lists and stressful studies or 9-5 jobs (or is it 9-7 these days?!).

For some like Sam Cutler, ex tour manager for The Rolling Stones, festivals help fill a spiritual void in our lives. “People come to festivals for an almost quasi-religious experience; sharing, caring, nurturing. Because the outside world isn’t necessarily like that," he explains.

I’m lucky enough to get out to festivals every other month, and am convinced of their enormous capacity to incubate exciting new ideas and foster progressive social and cultural change; from the way we treat each other to the way we treat our planet.

But if you've been to a festival in the last decade and seen the post-apocalyptic pile-up of trash left behind as the crowds leave, you might agree with me that something about the experience is not right. We've all seen the pictures; a scene strewn with everything from tonnes of single-use plastic cups and cans to cheap tents and broken marquees. No one I speak to – festivals, punters, stallholders, bands – thinks this is cool. Yet it still happens.

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Ironically, music festivals – these spaces that in many ways are living, breathing examples of a world as we hope it could be – also highlight some of the worst features of our culture; our throw-away mentality, our separation from and dominance over nature.

This is in stark contrast to Indigenous cultures that see themselves as one with mother earth. Singer-songwriter, and proud Yorta Yorta woman, Allara Briggs-Pattison, captures the sentiment beautifully – “Take care of Country and Country will take care of you”.

Most of us don't think like that. In part, that's because we’ve been sold a lie: that money is all that matters. This lie compels us to work our guts out, makes us time-poor and tired, which in turn leads to poor decisions like buying cheap camping gear, even when we know it’ll do a crappy job and break after one use.

And that doesn’t even take into account the human cost. After all, you don’t get $20 tents on supermarket shelves by paying workers a living wage. Someone’s getting exploited along the way. Even the Pope thinks single-use culture must stop.

Now, I’m not in the habit of quoting the Pope, nor am I religious. But the fact that the leader of one of our most conservative and oldest institutions has taken issue with our ‘throw-away’ lifestyle is telling. To my mind, this means one thing: our old story is coming to a close.

Our oceans can’t take much more plastic pollution. Our planet can’t take much more extraction. The links between over consumption and the climate crisis are increasingly clear on this already dry continent, as 'permanently wet' forests burn for the first time and our pacific neighbours lose their homes to rising waters.

We need a new story. And fast.

Fortunately, change is happening.

For the first time in Australia’s history, the music industry has united around a shared goal of healing our planet.

Led by not-for-profit organisation Green Music Australia, 10 of our most popular festivals, countless musicians, and a host of forward-thinking businesses and non-profits, are working together to tackle waste under the campaign banner, 'Party With The Planet’.

Together they’re sharing resources, piloting new initiatives - like onsite camping rental programs - and using their combined reach to bring fans along the journey, asking everyone to make a public commitment to do our bit.

At the same time, big name touring acts like Billie Eilish, Jack Johnson and P!nk, are also taking action, reducing their impact by scrapping single-use products and offsetting emissions. In the case of Coldplay, they are going one step further and halting all tours until they’ve locked in an environmentally positive plan.

This is uncharted territory, and the optimistic part of me can see the epic potential of a new era where we, collectively, start to really give a shit. And act like it.

The challenge now is how to make this shift happen as fast as possible. And that's where you and I come in. Together, in our tens of thousands, we festival lovers can make a huge difference. Alongside our fellow fans, we can choose to be caretakers for our precious planet while also letting loose and partying to celebrate life. The two don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

In practical terms, this means bringing your own hardy reusable bottles and cups from home, borrowing festival gear before buying new, and taking everything home after the event is over. It's not rocket science. But right now, it's not happening. And it's hugely important.

So here we are at a crossroads. The decisions we make today have the potential to either accelerate climate change and mass extinction or turn things around. Each one of us alone is a drop in the ocean - but what is the ocean if not a whole lot of drops?

The music industry has started laying foundations for this brighter, cleaner future. Now we fans have to step on in.

Acting in this moment means your effort will join with many others.

I'm gonna keep doing what I do: rallying the industry and supporting artists, and from my unique vantage point in this ecosystem, I can see what a difference it will make to have Australia’s music-loving community on board, committed. It'll signal that this change is inevitable and we're going to make it happen. That's why we launched Party With The Planet and that's why I ask you to join us today.

For more information, tips on how to get involved and to take the pledge, click here, email info@partywiththeplanet.org or visit/share on social media - @partywiththeplanet #PartyWithThePlanet.

Thank you to Matt Wicking and Tim Hollo for your help putting together this piece.