I'll never forget my favorite memory from my first music festival.
My best friend and I were sitting in a giant field, listening to Ben Harper sing in the sunshine, surrounded by a couple thousand peaceful and happy people.
She turned to me and said, “Man, if hippies ruled the world.”
I knew exactly what she meant. If we could just craft a lifestyle where everyone got together over what we had in common rather than what separated us, the world would be a better place.
As we drove out of the festival on the last day, I remember looking around at all the garbage left behind.
The previously picturesque farm was littered with broken styrofoam coolers, abandoned tents and piles of garbage. If we were hippies, we would be doing a really bad job if given the chance to rule the world.
Music festivals are an incredible opportunity to escape from our everyday lives and instead experience peace, art, community and music. They remind us of our potentially dormant bohemian spirit and invite us to reconnect with our inner wild child.
They also offer us the incredible opportunity to express a different way of living in the world. It's one in which we make the commitment to living in alignment with a lifestyle that serves the greater good and leaves the earth better than we found it.
Rather than leave behind garbage this festival season, I invite you to take a look at your consumption and shift the way your experience impacts the environment.
With just a few simple shifts, we can drastically reduce our impact on our world, allowing us to live fully in alignment with the hippie experience we seek this festival season.
1. Create a zero-waste road trip.
When every gas station or bathroom break provides the opportunity for plastic bottles, food wrappers and plastic bags, it becomes incredibly easy to build up heaps of garbage on the road trip to the festival.
With just a few minutes of planning before you take off, you can drastically reduce the amount of waste you create on the trip down. Pre-plan snacks and meals by portioning them out in reusable containers, and stock them in your car so you're not tempted to impulse buy these items along the way.
2. Make the commitment to only bring reusable items.
When you check out every “ultimate festival packing list” you will see loads of disposable items: paper towels, styrofoam coolers, plastic cups, utensils, the list goes on and on.
When you use these items only once, they end up in a landfill to live forever in dystopian bliss. Rather than purchasing these one-off items from your local superstore, consider bringing items you already own.
Swap out plastic cups, plates and utensils for the ones you keep in your cupboard. Instead of plastic water bottles and jugs, opt for a stainless steel reusable water bottle that you refill at water stations.
Take an inventory of everything you need, and consider if it can be bought in bulk and packaged in reusable containers, rather than purchasing convenience items in throw-away containers.
3. Borrow your bigger items rather than purchasing new.
If you've ever been to a music festival, you know that every Walmart and Target in a 200-mile radius from the venue is fully stocked with cheap chairs, tents, sun shades and coolers.
Rather than buying cheap (often one-time use) big-ticket items, check in with friends to see who can loan you these items for the weekend.
You'd be surprised how many friends and relatives have a garage full of old camping gear and folding chairs. Not only will you not be contributing to disposable consumer culture, but you'll also be saving money.
4. Rethink your fast fashion.
I get it. You want to look like you rolled out of a vintage VW camper in your flower crown and effortless fringe romper a la Vanessa Hudgens, but it's important to seriously rethink where your fashion comes from.
Most of the cute fashion retailers that sell festival-chic outfits are cheaply made, poorly designed items that pay their workers a ridiculously low wage in poor working conditions.
It's easy to forget this when you walk into a bright, shiny, trendy store, but it's important to remember what you're really supporting when you spend your hard-earned cash in these places.
Every dollar we spend is a vote cast. Commit to consciously spending your money whenever possible.
Music festival clothing is typically a one-off item. If you're going to be buying clothing just for one weekend, make an effort to hunt for clothes that are either second hand or borrowed from friends. You can still look chic and bohemian without supporting industries that are diametrically opposed to global welfare.
5. Turn down free swag you'll never use again.
I've been to tons of music festivals in my life. And in that time, I've collected heaps of free swag: free frisbees, pens, bags and sunglasses.
I have no idea where these items I've amassed are, but I can guarantee they're somewhere in a landfill.
It's tempting to take the free promotional items handed out so freely at music festivals, but the more you refuse it, the less incentive these brands have to keep producing them.
Always remember that every consumption decision you make has an impact; make it a commitment to always choose in the best interest of your environment (unless you really, truly need that free Verizon Wireless fanny pack).
Music festivals are one of the greatest parts of summer. They let you cut loose and experience the joy of living in the moment with your best friends and some of the world's greatest artists. It's impossible to ignore the sense of freedom they provide.
This festival season, take advantage of the opportunity to live fully free: Free from waste, free from unconscious consumer culture and free from any guilt associated with leaving the earth worse off than the way we found it.
With just a few extra moments of preparation, you can make a massive impact.