Lightning in a Bottle: The Greenest Festival in America
Music. Art. Spirituality. Sustainability. Bringing a conscious mind to it’s ever-expanding production company, The Do LaB has yet again set the bar high for creating the most eco-friendly environment for American festivals. Since 2010, Lightning in a Bottle has received the Greener Festival in America Award for its sustainable efforts in waste management, repurposed materials, energy consumption, and filtered water stations. The leader of that initiative is Sustainability Director, Shena Jade Jensen.
Having graduated from the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia with a degree in Sustainable Development at a time when eco-awareness was just starting to be recognized, Jensen joined The Do Lab in 2006 to create a new Lightning in a Bottle, one that evolved from a renegade forest festival into an earth-conscious, community-oriented art and music celebration.
“We created our own model of how to track sustainability and set benchmarks in five areas- waste, energy, transportation, materials, and education. So every year we just increase what we are doing in each of those areas,” Jensen said in an interview with Millennial Magazine.
This year’s festival took place the weekend of July 11 through the 15 at Temecula’s Lake Skinner Campground. Environmental awareness was abundant as the venue was laced with helpful signage that promoted a healthy and clean lifestyle.
With a philosophy that encouraged waste control through their slogan “Pack it in, pack it out,” the festival required attendees to clean up after themselves and be conscious of their consumption and environmental impact. Bringing individual camp trash bags and reusable aluminum water bottles were just some of the tactics used to alleviate traditional waste issues.
Inside the festival grounds were distinct areas to help attendees be more conscious of the proper channels of disposal for all garbage, which included designated compost, landfill, and recycling areas that established which piece applied to which trashcan. “People now get this…they understand what compostables are…and how to recycle, whereas our first year, people didn’t know where an aluminum can went,” Jensen said. The general expansion of environmental consciousness has moved outside the festival and into a societal norm, but although society may be seeing positive signs of environmental protection, The Do Lab’s trash stations do assist guests with disposal decisions through an interactive learning experience.
Assigning a Green Team to ensure the eco-friendly values of Lightning in a Bottle, Jensen received the help of her husband, Jeremy, who managed the waste center, and the assistance of three other managers who coordinated over one hundred voluntary green ambassadors. Considered the King and Queen of the trash kingdom, Shena and Jeremy Jensen deployed volunteers to scour the grounds for trash build up. The stations were then emptied by loading biodiesel Kubota tractors and taken back to three 40-yard dumpsters behind-the-festival-scenes. “It’s a very spiritual experience just going through people’s trash and seeing what they are consuming, and how they are living over a weekend,” Jensen explained, “the good thing is that we are still cleaning up the same amount but the number of attendees is growing.”
In addition to enforcing a greener waste system, participants were also granted the opportunity to refill their aluminum water bottles with free filtered water throughout the festival. As a result of wanting to eliminate plastic bottle consumption, Jensen says that the free-water initiative was first introduced in 2008 to “provide hydration for people without all that expense” and has spread to multiple festivals throughout the world. With temperatures soaring into the triple digits over the weekend, these filtered stations made all the difference for keeping attendees hydrated while also removing any volatile organic compounds (VOCs), sediments, and chlorine from the water. The Do LaB receives its water source from the venue itself, and “hooks up to municipal sources so there won’t be a shortage.” They then purchase their own filters to “ensure the water tastes extra good.”
Outside of trash collection and water stations, the festival took the concept of sustainability to heart by integrating key principles into “every single aspect of the festival.” From reducing the energy consumption throughout the grounds to using recycled materials to build structures, “all of our stages have really evolved…and are made out of sustainable materials.” In particular, the Temple of Consciousness, a meditative arena for spiritual and conscious growth, was infused with the eco-genius of artist, Shrine, who designed the village out of recycled trash.
Renewable energy sources were also used in contributing to a greener production through solar panels and biodiesel fuel-powered generators, light towers, camping shuttles, and crew vehicles. Biodiesel is America’s first advanced biofuel being comprised of agricultural oil, cooking grease, and animal fats. According to Biodiesel.org, the renewable fuel is “biodegradable, nontoxic, and essentially free of sulfur and aromatics.” The use of LED lights and compacted fluorescent bulbs illuminated the night with a minimal amount of power and provided an electric wonderland at lower rate of consumption.
But to further perpetuate the shift in environmental awareness, Jensen also led the effort to educate attendees through sustainability classes. “All of our workshops are really based on homesteading and do-it-yourself creation,” which aids guests in reskilling their everyday habits to contribute to a more eco-friendly world. “It really can be a place where you come and completely learn a new way of life.”
The Do LaB’s Lightning in a Bottle 2013 did not disappoint its neo-hippy community as the team spent a year preparing for the ultimate unveiling of their new venue and heightened festival. The world-changing actions and sustainable initiatives that spew out of The Do LaB’s community offers a conscious alternative to conventional consumption. With a culture rich in ecological abundance and stimulating creativity, Lightning in a Bottle issues an environment for all to unite with the divine power of Mother Nature.