Several months ago, I saw that two or three of my peers on twitter were talking about an upcoming festival (a "gathering," NOT a conference or convention) in North Carolina that would focus on the intersection of art, justice, and spirituality. It was to be called Wild Goose Festival, after a Celtic metaphor for the Holy Spirit of God.

I contacted Jacob, one of the directors, hoping to snag some stage time at the event, but I was too late - the programming was already planned out. I ended up volunteering with the "recycling crew" instead (euphemism for the waste management team which also handled trash and compost).

Being a freegan myself - and therefore especially concerned about waste - I figured I was a shoe-in. I gladly accepted the position which would allow me to attend the entire event for free - food and camping accommodations included!

I volunteered 16 hours throughout the fest shouldering large compost bins and heavy black bags of trash and recycling into the bed of a bright blue pick up truck and emptying them at the farm's dump site. It wasn't very glamorous, but I did make friends with my fellow trash crew members and we even devised a secret handshake!

Though it was fun and even enlightening - to a certain extent - to spend the weekend camping out, singing, dancing, playing, and engaging in conversation with my mostly-left-leaning brothers and sisters, I was sorely disappointed by their apparent inability to minimize and sort waste properly, even in a festival milieu that so aptly encouraged it! Nearly every waste station had separate bins for compost, trash, and recycling with colorful signs explaining which items ought to go in each - yet It was all too often that we found plastic bags in the compost bins, bottles and food waste in the trash. 

By the end of the festival we accumulated about two large dumpsters worth of both trash and recycling; relatively little amounts of food and paper waste were composted; stunningly exorbitant amounts of waste were improperly sorted. 

Now I hate to sound all holier-than-thou; but seriously, how can such a group of hippie, environmentalist, progressive, leftist, and/or so-called emergent Christians blow it on such a basic level? Christians really can't figure out how to reuse, reduce, recycle? To properly steward the planet created for us? If anything, we ought to be leading the charge! 

I know that many Christians are, indeed, leading the way - I first really learned about composting at a similar Xian event in 2008 called PAPA Fest - and that many of those who attended Wild Goose did their part. But on the whole the folks of this festival community (still only a small sampling of this minority appendage of the Church in the US) absolutely must do more to create a better model for consumption and waste. Here's hoping that by next year this flock gets its act straight, realizes its responsibility to care for the earth, and starts to lead the way. Our planet can hardly afford otherwise!

For more on my trip to North Carolina, check out the post on my personal blog page... click here =D 


07/02/2011 05:47

I think you express the same disapointment shared by many of the volunteers, directors, and other participants. I was around some conversations wondering, "why isn't this working"...where the lables on the bins not clear or specific enought? One of my thoughts was that people came from all over the country and what is "recyclable" varies from city to city. I think we have to remember that most urban recycling pick up is "single stream" meaning people are accustomed to put everything in the same recycling bin because someone later in the process sorts it out. If someone has not had to take, sort, and deposit their own recycling they are simply unaware that the process at Shakori Hills is different. Also, I overheard a lot of confusion at the trashcans by people trying to do their best, but once things looked "mixed" what were they supposed to do? Also, there were questions about the kind of paper being used by different sources...did people know that if it was waxed cups where to put them...did we know which plastic ware was and was not compostable? Did Shakori collect all plastics or only 1 and 2 like many other programs are limited on plastics.

I know myself and others REALY wanted to do this right, but it may take another year and some tweaking to help shape the culture and help people be successful doing what they intend and desire to do. I would suggest that you or anyone else well-informed and passionate be a part of shaping this for next year to help it be the success people truly want it to be. We need to always remember to walk humbly as we do it...

07/02/2011 14:14

Hi Tamara, thank you for sharing and for the encouraging words (not to mention reminding me about the importance of humility..) There was certainly a lack of clarity about HOW to sort everything. Since I got to see the dump site, I can tell you that there were huge dumpsters there for pretty much every kind of recycling, all separated: aluminum, plastic, glass (one clear and one colored). And there were no plastic bags in these bins. I'm not sure why WG organizers couldn't figure out a way to sort according to Shakori's already extensive system. Instead, all recycling was lumped together in black plastic bags. Nevertheless, my post is more about an overall attitude regarding consumption and waste. Perhaps this is asking much (I don't think so) but if each attendee brought his/her own heavy-duty plastic plate, silverware, etc then the total waste would have been cut down in half (at least). If they brought canteens and filled them at the many water refill stations, then we would not have consumed nearly as many water bottles. And so on. For me, the most important step in "reduce, reuse, recycle" is the first. And this is apparently something that we still struggle with. I do have hope for the future and I would be happy to support WG efforts to step up the waste-management game. BTW, for more info about my overall perspective about waste, check out http://freegan.info

07/02/2011 14:30

I couldn't agree more... the reduce is the first and best step...and probably the hardest shift in American consumerism. I think like many other things about WGF people didn't read all of the great info that was available in preparing. I read about the strong recommendation to bring a plate, serveware, etc. I went out and invested in a nice camp plate and spork for my husband and I...I had it clipped on my water backpack all week and used it when I could (there may have been health code restrictions on the vendors as my plate was refused once)...I was disappointed to not see anyone else with their camp plate...I thought it was going to be a fun new way of celebrating intentional community values. We just have to keep getting the word out there so people can start thinking and then doing differently! I'll keep reading your stuff...thanks for posting!


Your comment will be posted after it is approved.

Leave a Reply.