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Being part of the pack-down crew at Peats Ridge music festival has a lot more work involved then one would imagine. A lot more than I had imagined.

The idea behind this New Years festival is to be sustainable while providing art, music, and workshops. As they’re website states, “a major part of the Peats Ridge experience is finding out how to live more sustainably, and therefore reduce our impact on the beautiful Glenworth Valley, and the planet as a whole.”

One way in which this is achieved is by composting all the food waste – minus meat – in massive built up compost bins created by yours truly. During the day we separated the paper material like cups, plates, and cutlery from the food waste that were all deposited into the compost bins. The paper material is then shredded (including waste boxes laying around the festival) and is used as a brown layer between the compost. It’s a great way to ensure that a mix of green and browns is evenly distributed to the compost. It’s also an amazing way to divert such a large quantity of food waste that is left around after 5000 people eat at a festival. Go team compost!

Calgary Folk Festival takes the approach of providing plastic plates that require a $5 deposit for use. Each vendor is required to use the plates which are obtained at a kiosk. Ironically, each year youth end up making a killing by walking around the beer gardens offering to “remove” plates from the drunken patrons. Combining both options seems like a more optimal and sustainable approach as you are not creating more demand for paper products. Thus further reducing teh festivals ecological imprint.

“Can you guys come over to the festival vendors bin to help out?” – why not I thought. When we arrived at this massive garbage bin provided for the food vendors it was filled with food. Around the base of the bin there was mounds and mounds of corn. Apparently, a vendor was not as successful as they had figured they would be to hungry festival goers. Instead they determined it was more economical to throw away the corn, 5 KG of pinto beans, a box of ginger, boxes of uncooked Turkish bread, and 4 x 20 KG bags of potatoes.

Did they expect that vendors at the festival would act in such disconnected fashion to the festival? I sat there stunned. Then Chris, my old friend from a permaculture school, and I proceeded to place the corn into milk crates and give it out to the workers around the festival. Liberate the corn one cob at a time!

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As an activist, sustainability educator, and random person sometimes I find it difficult not to try and mesh all three of these elements into the way that I communicate thoughts about life. Recent discussions around dumpster diving and educating the “masses” about the legalities of such acts has raised alarm bells for me. Let me start by defining these actions..

Dumpster Diving: The act of going into commercial dumpsters (or non-commercial to) and pull out items of use or food that is being waste for reuse or consumption.

Gleaning: The act of going into farmers fields (note: still legal in Europe although not as heavily acted upon as the old days) and taking the produce left on the farm fields after the harvest.

In the true form Gleaning is an act that is still legal in Europe as a means of collecting left over food. The concept of Dumpster Diving has been a response to the over production of food rather than a means to the end.

In its outright Dumpster Diving is not a sustainable action, but something that most people do in response to the over consumption that our existing world takes part in. Correction: Our existing world meaning “Western” world because travelling to places like Ecuador you find people eating the food that we tend to throw away – brown bananas anyone?

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