a green guide to festival

The time is finally here...Festival International kicks off today here in Lafayette! Once a year for five days, musicians, culture and festival-lovers descend on downtown Lafayette, and it's pretty glorious.

For all the information, including lineups and food/vendor listings, head on over to Festival International's website.

And to make your Festival experience even better, I've created a guide on how to go greener. This could be followed for any kind of outdoor music festival, not just Festival International, though I do know other festivals are much stricter on what you can bring onto the grounds.

Festivals are not typically the place where going green is a first priority. As evidenced by this lovely pile of trash from last year, there are so many things that could've been recycled (and should've, since there are recycling bins placed all over) and things that could've been reused (and should've, because come on!) That reusable plastic Greenroom cup is dinnerware quality to college students. But the trash will overflow, so the steps you take help to decrease the mound, even if the action feels small.

So, first things first. What should you pack for Festival? Having the right supplies will help you go greener from the start.

Pack a reusable water bottle. I cannot stress this enough. You will save so much plastic by bringing and reusing a bottle. And of course it doesn't have to hold only water - use it for Festival punch, margaritas, soft drinks, sports drinks, etc. Last year, I packed an insulated Klean Kanteen, and it kept my frozen margarita frozen for hours. Ask the servers if you can have your drink poured into your bottle instead of a plastic cup. If you do get a good reusable plastic cup, REUSE IT! Four Festival punches don't need to equal a stack of four Festival plastic cups. Use the same cup each time.

Pack any weather-related needs. Sunscreen, a light sweater, sunglasses, a portable fan, etc. If you think ahead and pack it with you, it will save you from an emergency trip to buy it and ending up with a duplicate of something you may already have at home. And seriously, wear sunscreen. No one wants weird, nasty sunburns.

If you plan on shopping, bring a cloth shopping bag to hold your purchases, and skip the plastic bags from each tent.

If you plan on eating (and if you're going to Festival International, eating is probably 60% of the reason you're going, hello crawfish boat!), bring a fork and cloth napkin with you. Either a piece of your silverware, or a plastic fork you have stashed in that junk drawer. I know it sounds weird, but think about the amount of waste accrued from all of the disposable plates, bowls, forks, spoons and napkins. Bring one with you and rinse it off when you're done, then use it again later. And resist the urge to grab a huge stack of paper napkins from each vendor.

If you have an iPhone or Android, download the official Festival International app. It provides maps, lineups, schedules and other important information. And it saves paper! Skip the paper guide this year and go for the app.

For the ladies, save the electricity from your styling products and go natural. It's going to be hot, it may rain a bit (fingers crossed it doesn't though), and you're going to be outside. Chances are, all the work you'd spend on your hair would just get messed up in the first 30 minutes of being outside. Save energy (yours and electrical) and go for a natural hairstyle.

Now, traveling to Festival. Riding your bike is a fantastic way to get to Festival. You can avoid the hassle of parking and walking, and you save gas. I am not sure whether there will be a bicycle valet spot this year, but there are plenty of places where your bikes can be locked up. If you can't bike, consider taking the Festival shuttle. It runs pretty continuously from Cajun Field, about 2.5 miles away, and drops you off in the middle of the fun. This year there will be two bus stops downtown at the most crowded times. Riding the bus will help cut down on the amount of traffic near downtown. The main stop is near Filling Station and the second stop is near Americas Coffeehouse.

Once you get to Festival, don't get so swept up that you forget all your green actions. Use the Festival app, and don't grab a handful of paper guides that will only get wadded in the bottom of your bag. If you have to throw something away, make sure it's not recyclable first. If it is recyclable, RECYCLE IT! The bins are there. Use them! But try not to take something disposable in the first place.

Many vendors at Festival have green products, from recycled to local and handmade. Support these vendors and show them you support green habits! There are some truly great recycled things to find, and they are beautifully unique.

At last year's Festival, there were two great things to note. This bicycle made by UL Industrial Design students took cans and crushed them for easier recycling.

And this phone charging station provided a relief for dying phones everywhere. Take advantage of these stations, and you won't have to pack your charger and hunt for an outlet.

And if you want to make a bigger difference, volunteer for Festival! This year, my boyfriend and I are excited to be recycling volunteers, wherein we'll be picking up the full recycling bags and bringing them to a drop-off point. We're doing our part to help Festival be green, so it can grow in future years.

The little actions you take truly add up to make a bigger statement. The best thing to do is to limit the amount of waste you have - from not using it in the first place, to properly disposing of it in the end. The less impact you make, the less the planet feels it.

Now gear up, get out there, and ENJOY FESTIVAL!

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