For 10 years now, “Carpoolchella” has been a fixture on windshields and car windows for thousands making the journey to the desert music mecca, Coachella. Sure, it’s a catchy hashtag. But what you may not know is that Carpoolchella is also the easiest way to win your way into Coachella VIP every year for the rest of your life — and help save the planet in the process.
The program is a collaboration between Coachella and Global Inheritance, a nonprofit organization driving innovative and artistic solutions to energy, recycling, water and transportation issues. Each year Global Inheritance produces several interactive installations aimed at lessening the environmental impact of the festival (and dozens of other events including Sundance Film Festival, the Grammy Awards and Lollapalooza) while also trying to engage festivalgoers in a fun, accessible and meaningful way.
Last year, Global Inheritance presented a “Polar Bear Dating Game,” which matched a winner with Ursus the Bear, as well as two guest backstage passes for the weekend, all while educating about ways to help preserve the Arctic ecosystem. This year (and every year since 2004), Global Inheritance has scattered vibrant and thought-provoking recycling bins designed by visual artists throughout the grounds as part of its TRASHed (Trash Education) Recycling Program, which is estimated to have saved 6.6 million recyclables and enough materials to make 1.3 million shirts since it launched.
While there is some sort of reward associated with all of the nonprofit’s programs, such as passes to ride the Ferris wheel, meal vouchers and even VIP upgrades (as well as that warm fuzzy feeling), according to Global Inheritance founder Eric Ritz, none compares with Carpoolchella’s grand prize payout: lifetime VIP passes for you and the rest of your car. “I mean, I don’t know any other festival in the world that offers something that cool,” Ritz says.
Ritz describes participating in Carpoolchella, which is estimated to have saved nearly 1,000 tons of emissions and gotten 67,000 cars off the road during the festival commute since 2007, as common sense. “There are a lot of people out there who want to do right but don’t have the time,” he says. So Carpoolchella was introduced to invite attendees to get creative with something they were likely already doing — traveling to the festival with friends — or to inspire them to start or join a caravan if they had no plans to before.
Every year, dozens of decorated cars and vans line the campgrounds — some of which are truly impressively designed — and each one of them is automatically entered to win. People tend to think of Carpoolchella as a sort of pageant, where the most extravagant vehicle takes home the biggest prize, but the truth is anybody with at least four passengers can be a winner.
“The idea is it’s as fair as possible,” says Ritz, explaining how a group of Global Inheritance scouts chooses who gets entered. ”There are no set times we are out there. We’re just looking for people who are participating. You don’t have to go out and paint your whole car — you can print ‘Carpoolchella’ on an 8½-by-11 sheet and put it in your window.”
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While all of this sounds way too good to be true, one of 2013’s Carpoolchella grand prize winners, Mike Hernandez, confirms it. He and his friends drew "Carpoolchella" and some basic mountain and palm tree shapes on their car at the last minute and headed into day parking, where they paused to "pregame" before entering the festival.
"While pregaming we notice a golf cart driving toward us," Hernandez remembers. "Thinking we're doing something illegal, we try and hide the drinks and rush out the car." Instead, the people in the golf cart asked someone from Hernandez's crew to reach into a manila envelope full of Carpoolchella prizes.
"We chose our friend Candice to pick from the envelope, and when she pulled out she had the grand prize," Hernandez says. "The people in the cart immediately said, 'Congrats, you guys all won VIP tickets for life.'"
So while it's not necessary to spend hours decorating your ride to increase your chances of winning any of the Carpoolchella prizes — which also include backstage passes, $50 merchandise vouchers and entry into the Outstanding in the Field VIP dinner — there's also no reason not to scribble a bunch of doodles on your van when you're carpooling with friends. Not only will you have the shot at VIP for life, you'll make all of our commutes to Coachella way less boring.