Which Music Festivals Are Dirtiest?

Which Music Festivals Are Dirtiest?
Gumber, with a sign he made at Sasquatch

Our music feature this week focuses on the environmental impact of music festivals, which tend to be -- surprise, surprise -- ecologically problematic.

For the piece we talked with Tucker Gumber, known on his blog as The Festival Guy, who goes to just about every festival imaginable. In fact, he's been to 38 of them since the beginning of 2011, he says, a total of 139 days at events from Southern California to Texas to Delaware.

See also: Music Festivals Are Environmental Disasters. What Can Be Done?

He's been documenting his experiences, and keeping a close watch on the impact the different events are having on the environment. As he describes it, some are doing a great job, and some are shockingly grimy. Here, in his own words, Gumber breaks down the best and worst:

The Good

Burning Man:

Black Rock City, NV

This 50,000 person city is built with no trashcans and is the cleanest city you will ever visit. The participants don't let MOOP (that's Burner speak for "Matter Out Of Place") touch the ground.

Outside Lands

San Francisco

The festival has attendees at each recycling area to ensure the participants place each item in the proper compost/recycle/trash bin. They also have an entire area called EcoLands where you can get rewarded for recycling and learn more ways to be green.

Lightning In A Bottle

Temecula, CA

The cleanest festival you will ever attend. The crowd is as clean as you could hope for and recycles, composts, and trashes when necessary.


Dover, DE

Firefly does the best job of recycling in the campgrounds by giving the attendees a black trash bag and a blue bag for recycling.

Coachella begins!
Coachella begins!


Indio, CA

Offers a ten for one bottle exchange [for every ten empty water bottles you get a new, full one] that the participants really love and keeps the facility clean. They also offer an electric playground to charge your phones and an Art of Reclying program that has participants decorate the recycle bins.



This one offers an entire street called Green Street for festivalsgoers learn more about being eco-friendly. Their Rock and Recycle program lets festivalgoers turn in recyclables for prizes.

Austin City Limits

Austin, TX

Offers the same Rock and Recycle program as Lollapalooza. Attendees like it and actually do it.

Next, the mediocre, the bad and the just plain trashy


The Mediocre


Manchester, TN

Offers their Recycle and Win program to encourage attendees to recycle, but it wasn't advertised very well as I didn't notice it all weekend.

The Bad

South By Southwest

Austin, TX

The event organizers try to keep the festival clean but it's just too large to contain. The streets are littered with thousands of fliers with bands trying to get to get people to their shows.

Which Music Festivals Are Dirtiest?
Credit: Josh "Curious Josh" Reiss

Electric Daisy Carnival

Las Vegas

Event organizers provide ample trashcans and recycling containers, but keeping the facility clean is not a practice the crowd has picked up yet. This year there was, however, marked improvement from the previous two years; the crowd is getting better as the kids get more festivals under their belts.

See also: This Is What's On the Ground at 6 a.m. at Electric Daisy Carnival

The Ugly


Quincy, WA

The event organizers completely failed at this event. There were not enough trashcans in the fairgrounds, and they only cleaned at the end of the night. The result was a festival completely filled with trash, which was especially disappointing for an event happening in a green state like Washington.

See also: Music Festivals Are Environmental Disasters. What Can Be Done?

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