Winter Prep for Sustainable Summer Festivals

The Time to Plan on Reducing Your Environmental Impact is Now

The chilly fall weather is settling in. The exchange of lightweight clothes for dutiful layers begins to take place. Packing up the summer gear takes you back to warmer days, the distant vibrations of the summer’s camping adventures and the bassy pulse of summer music festivals fade into smile-inducing memories of adventure, travel and fun.

The flowy clothes and flower party pants are run through the much-needed wash. You check your trusty fanny pack for any crumbs of party favors before packing it up for winter storage. The camp chairs, tapestries, tent and other gear are checked off as cleaned as your last inventory takes place, and you find a few items wanting of repair or replacement. You mark up that list of last-minute things you remembered needing once you were in the woods, setting up camp, and desperately trying to cook a meal without a spatula.

You begin to rethink the layout of your camp, and this takes you on a mental journey of the pop-up renegade tent cities that magically appear during festival season, but don’t seem to disappear as magically. Beneath that shiny layer of wavy sunshine fun, cloudy giggle sessions, and music-induced dancing in a trance, there is the grimy layer of trash and waste running deep on the festival grounds. This grit permeates the good times, dimming the bright memory of the whole experience. One of my strongest memories of Sasquatch Music festival 2014, rivaling the memory of seeing OutKast the first and only time of my life, was that nearly no matter where you walked, you stepped upon a sea of plastic and trash.

The good news is, cold weather makes planning sessions in wool socks and sweaters a very enjoyable experience. The offseason is always the perfect time to get your game plan straight before the hectic days of digging out gear, checking off lists and throwing everything but the dog in the car and hitting the yellow brick road to the camp land of music. Many useful and essential items go on sale after the changing of the season, making fall and winter premium times to scout the great sales for last year’s models. Retailers need to make room for new models of gear coming out early spring, so get organized and get your gear before the new model pricing becomes the norm. This is also the time to re-envision how you will show up and contribute to the culture in your festival attendance.

Winter Prep for Sustainable Summer Festivals

Here are a few tips and tricks of sustainable festival attending:

Setting Up Your Kitchen Space

  1. Say goodbye to plastic water bottles and single-use dishes, and hello to 5-gallon water jugs and reusables.
  2. Bring your own plates, cups, and silverware. These can be found extremely cheap at the thrift store.
  3. Use a two-tub dishwashing system. Scrape all food remnants into the trash. Use a small amount of biodegradable soap. Tub one is for sanitizing and scrubbing. Tub two is for rinsing. Hang the scrubber and set the dishes out to dry. Combine soap and rinse water (the solution to pollution is dilution!). Dig down along the side of the roadway, or away from camp water sources and bury dishwater.
  4. Bring extra trash bags. Sort your trash and recycling for easy disposal at home!

Mind Your Gear

  1. Stake your stuff down. Letting your camp structures fly away when the wind picks up is not a fun experience, can be dangerous and also contributes to litter. I have attended small renegade festivals where the wind picked enough to lift canopies and drag them across the whole campground, laying waste to others’ gear, and injuring fellow attendees.
  2. Clean up your camp to avoid fly away trash. Waking up to an extremely hot tent encourages many hungover attendees to emerge Gollum-like from their bedded depths, seeking the one true precious; the elixir of life, caffeine. The best time to clean up the mess from all the shenanigans of the night before is while the coffee is brewing. After all, your decrepit, hung over body and mind will hardly remember these quick moments before you rehydrate and caffeine up.
  3. Leave no trace at pack up, use the grid walk system! Staying late on the last day to avoid the frantic exit traffic jam has been a faithful trick to save me the pain of the long hours waiting in the car. It has also granted me the sour pleasure to see the battlefield of junk left behind from fellow campers. I’ve met dedicated scavengers and moopers that stay behind to clean or sort through the stuff left behind and have witnessed the hundreds of dollars in bounty that they find (also, somehow a lot of drugs). When you finish packing up your camp, walk an imaginary grid of the layout and pick up all items, including teeny tiny micro trash.

Become a Mooper

Mooping is the festival culture term for cleaning up the grounds. It is considered a community-driven effort and a happy-hearted responsibility. Moop at your own pleasure. Bring a bag with you into the festival or as you walk the campgrounds to pick up trash, or moop as you go. There is absolutely no wrong way to moop. It creates a sense of unity and respect and encourages others through witnessing your actions to make a cleaner scene, culture and festival experience for all.


Amy Lyons

Amy Lyons was born in the massive and mostly wild state of Idaho. After a short stint in the DC area, she returned to Idaho to graduate from Boise State University with a Creative Writing degree. Amy has worked in sustainability, believes in equitable clean energy, and is an environmental advocate seeking to protect, observe, and enjoy as much of the planet and her wonders as she can. She once managed a large scale worm composting operation for a time, and is also known as a Worm Wrangler Extraordinaire. If she isn't at her writing desk, growing things in her garden, stuffing her face with delicious food, or playing with her dogs, Amy is lost in the wilderness seeking adventure. She is currently snowed in for the winter and care taking a backcountry lodge in the heart of the Boise National Forest. You can follow her current adventure at

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