Make plans to come out, check out some bands, visit the vendor booths, eat a lot of food, and knock back a few drinks.
And when you do, be sure to do it all responsibly and sustainably. It's possible to reduce, reuse and recycle to leave a positive impact on Festival.
First, let's all thank the many workers and volunteers who clean up all of the Festival trash and recycling every year. It is not a fun or glamorous job, but it has a tremendous positive impact on our local environment, and keeps a lot of trash out of Bayou Vermilion.
Read my column in the Times of Acadiana on going green at Festival!
Packing the EssentialsIf you plan on spending more than just a couple hours downtown, you're probably going to want to pack a backpack (unless you're one of those people who can spend an entire day needing only your cell phone and Chapstick, and if so, teach me your ways).
For the past few years, my husband and I have worked on perfecting our Festival backpacks, filled with anything we could need each of the days, especially during the weekend. If you plan to spend a good amount of time at Festival, the key is to pack reusable and strategic items.
- Stay hydrated with a full reusable water bottle or Camelbak.
- The usual weather essentials: sunscreen (and lots of it), sunglasses, hat, a portable fan (this year a new addition to our backpacks are cell phone-powered fans...I'm nerdily excited to use it!), and a rain jacket or poncho - leave the umbrellas at home and out of the crowds.
- Pack a compact cloth shopping bag for your Festival finds.
- Pack a to-go dining set with a fork, spoon, straw, and cloth napkin. If you can't avoid plastic utensils from food vendors, and you most likely won't be able to avoid them all weekend, just rinse and reuse them.
- Official Festival app downloaded on your phone. (Of note, there are three LUS Fiber Wifi hotspots at JD Bank Pavillon de Cuisine, Scene LUS, and Scene TV5Monde.)
- Portable backup cell phone charger.
- A small towel can come in handy during extreme sun or rainy periods and work better than paper napkins.
- Ziploc bag or waterproof case for your cell phone in case of rain.
Once you’ve got the perfect bag packed, you’ll need to figure out how to get downtown.
TransportationMy personal favorite method is to skip the traffic and parking by riding your bicycle downtown. You get some exercise, fresh air, emissions-free traveling, and this year you get your own lane on Congress Street right on into Festival. Don’t forget your bike lock and a key. Make sure you lock your bike away from walkways or heavily trafficked area.
If bicycling isn't your thing, your group is too large, or you live too far, go for the free official Festival International shuttle to and from Cajun Field, which runs every 15 minutes. Shuttles drop off at Lee and Jefferson, and at Garfield and Buchanan. Check the Festival website or app for shuttle hours.
Carpool with family or friends instead of driving separately.
Sustainability at FestivalWhen you’re at Festival, try to reduce as much waste as you can.
Cut down on paper and use the Festival app to refer to band schedules and stage information instead of grabbing a handful of paper guides that will either end up at the bottom of your backpack, spilled on or left-behind.
While most drink vendors can't fill up the reusable bottle that you packed, those souvenir Festival cups are totally recyclable! Just save your cups to reuse at home or work. In 2015, I learned that New Orleans Daiquiris was selling a reusable daiquiri cup that would allow you to get refills for a small discount (if I remember correctly). I used it for that weekend, then brought it back in 2016 and reused it all weekend. You can bet that cup is getting packed again this year!
Don't forget to use your cloth napkin and utensils. Although many food vendors use styrofoam products, you can still reduce your trash by skipping plastic utensils and paper napkins. Don't be afraid to say you don't want a utensil when ordering your food.
The Scoop on RecyclingHere’s what’s accepted in recycling bins:
- Aluminum cans
- Plastic drink cups
- Plastic drink bottles
- Dry paper
Here’s what’s NOT accepted in Festival recycling bins:
- Wet paper
- Plastic utensils
- Anything with grease
- Any paper or cardboard contaminated with food remnants
Leave the glass at home. It's super dangerous for all the sandal-clad feet!
ShoppingWhen you’re shopping, carry your purchases in a cloth bag. Stop by the official merchandise tent to get a cloth bag if you don't have one, and use it for all of your shopping. For the second year, Project Front Yard and CGI will be providing cloth bags for you to use instead of plastic.
Bring back your Project Front Yard bag from last year, or pick one up this year and reuse it when you purchase Festival merch, and get 5% off your purchase.
|Photo via Festival International|
Support the Artists and VendorsMany vendors sell green products, whether they use recycled or repurposed materials, source local materials or make their wares by hand. Support these vendors and show them you support sustainability! There are some truly great recycled things to find, and they are beautifully unique. I've found some of my all-time favorite jewelry at Festival International over the past few years, and I love meeting the artists who creatively repurpose and recycle.
This year, you can also purchase eco-friendly Festival aprons that are made from recycled material at the merchandise tents.
VolunteerHelp make Festival greener by volunteering for the recycling crew. Visit the Festival website to sign up for a shift.
|Bayou Vermilion District's Greg Guidroz on recycling duty in 2016|
Or, join the Project Front Yard trash mob on the Saturday afternoon and donate an hour of your afternoon to join others in cleaning up trash around Festival grounds. Keep up with Project Front Yard on Facebook for the most current updates on the event.
|Festival International 2016 Project Front Yard Trash Mob participants, via Project Front Yard|
If You Don't Do Anything Else I Suggest, Do ThisNo matter what, remember that the ground is not where your trash belongs! There will be approximately 300 dedicated recycling bins located all over downtown, so recycle everything that’s acceptable, and throw your other trash in one of the hundreds of trash cans.
There’s no excuse for littering.
Geaux Green and Happy Festival, y’all!
Visit Festival International: