Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


Solar Energy

Is Outside Lands the Future of the Sustainable Music Festival?

It’s not surprising that Outside Lands, a three-day music festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, wants to bill itself as being “green”. After all, the fest takes place in one of the country’s most beautiful parks. But does the festival, now in it’s second year, succeed in its aspirations of sustainability? Read below to find out.

Upon entering the festival grounds, I was immediately impressed by the plentiful garbage, compost, and recycling receptacles. The festival organizers required all vendors to use compostable cutlery, plates, and cups, so nearly everything except plastic bags could be tossed in the compost or recycling bins. And amazingly, most people complied–the regular trash bins were far more empty than the other two, in no small part thanks to Outside Lands’ colorful signage explaining which items belong in what bin.

But while compost bins aren’t new to many festivals, the Outside Lands focus on local foods is by far the most impressive effort I’ve seen at any music festival. SF Weekly, in fact, went so far as to say the festival was more about the food than the music. I wouldn’t go that far, but Outside Lands did an excellent job of keeping things local by featuring (almost) only vendors from Bay Area restaurants.

In addition to the food love spread throughout the festival, Outside Lands also has an entire area devoted to environmental awareness, dubbed “Eco Lands”. It’s a cheesy name, but Eco Lands deserves its title–the entire section of the festival, featuring a stage, food and clothing vendors, and local nonprofits was juiced up by a cluster of jumbo solar panels. The panels also powered a solar cell phone charging booth provided by local energy company PG&E. As expected, the booth was a hit with festivalgoers panicking over a lack of outlets on the grounds–all the while sneaking in a lesson about the power of solar energy.

There were a number of other impressive elements of Eco Lands, including a recycling store that offered prizes in exchange for plastic bottles (one example: a VIP pass to next year’s Outside Lands festival), a wind turbine, and a mini farmers market.

Overall, the festival was a model for other large events to follow. I ran into just one problem: Outside Lands encouraged festivalgoers to bring their own water bottles, but upon entering I was asked to dump out my water. Once inside, I had the choice of paying $1 to refill my bottle, buy a regular plastic water bottle, or buy a reusable Outside Lands water bottle and get free refills. Upon asking about the Outside Lands water bottle on the second day of the festival, I was informed that all vendors on the ground were sold out. Next year, Outside Lands might consider letting music-lovers bring in their own water or at least stocking up on reusable water bottles.

But these are minor nitpicks that could be addressed to almost every music festival I’ve ever attended. In most other respects, Outside Lands is well on its way to becoming a truly sustainable event.

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

Former Tesla Battery Expert Leading Lyten Into New Lithium-Sulfur Battery Era — Podcast:

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it! We just don't like paywalls, and so we've decided to ditch ours. Unfortunately, the media business is still a tough, cut-throat business with tiny margins. It's a never-ending Olympic challenge to stay above water or even perhaps — gasp — grow. So ...
If you like what we do and want to support us, please chip in a bit monthly via PayPal or Patreon to help our team do what we do! Thank you!
Written By

was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a senior editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine, and more. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.


You May Also Like


E-bike battery recycling is just getting started in the US, but already, more than 36,000 pounds of batteries have been processed.

CleanTechnica Exclusive

An expert in biogeochemistry explains that tiny plastics are showing up in crops and can be uptaken by plants into their tissues. What's the...


Lithium-ion batteries are a rapidly growing technology, used to power everything from our mobile phones to electric vehicles to renewable energy systems. Lithium-ion batteries...


Instead of hanging onto existing plastic policies in a siloed approach, innovative measures to tackle the plastic problem are at hand that address systemic...

Copyright © 2023 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.