When you picture a concert, you might think of littered plastic cups before thinking of the word "sustainability." The Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival, though, has continued to improve its environmental efforts with each passing fall. This year, the City of Columbia honored Roots N Blues as the recipient of one of the Mayor’s Climate Protection Awards in the category of Environmental Stewardship.
"The owners of Roots N Blues have put a heavy emphasis on sustainability in the last couple of years," the festival’s sustainability director Scout Merry said. "We are trying to show Columbia and beyond our interest in and the importance of the broader issue of sustainability, and the city saw that effort and recognized us."
Merry has worked with the festival management team and volunteers in the green team to make the weekend environmentally friendly. From setting up recycling bins to compost services, promoting sustainability at the festival has been a collaborative effort.
The festival attracts thousands of guests, but it also provides free shuttles to transport people and reduce the cars on the road. You can take a shuttle, ride your bike or walk to the concert, and you'd help decrease emissions. At the entrance to the festival, there are secure areas to park your bike. You can use this map of Columbia’s bike routes to help you find your way to the grounds.
Once you’re there, you can keep a clean conscience knowing that the vendors were handpicked because of their sustainable practices. By using recyclable and compostable containers and utensils, vendors help keep those pesky landfills from growing. Even the on-site signage and festival social media posts are given priority to vendors with the best practices.
"It would be super easy to not pay attention and let everything go to the landfill," Merry said. "But if you take an extra few seconds, your actions make a difference."
After you're done eating your meals, the City of Columbia helps get rid of any garbage by providing 100 recycling bins throughout the grounds. To raise the bar even higher, Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture helps vendors with daily composting. Though composting is limited to vendors this year, Merry said he hopes to make it more of a staple for concert-goers in the future.
According to the Roots N Blues website, last year the festival kept over five tons of 1-7 plastics, aluminum, glass, paper, corrugated cardboard and boxboard out of the landfill while over 10 tons made its way there. This year, they owners and Merry are hoping that the volunteers can help concert-goers keep even more waste out of the landfill. While at the event, look for the people wearing green shirts to help find a recycling bin or for tips on how to be sustainable at the festival.
After jamming out to your favorite band and sweating up a storm, wander over to the filtered drinking water station and fill up your reusable bottle to further decrease your environmental footprint. And if you’re feeling exceptionally inspired to follow green initiatives, the festival is giving concert goers the opportunity to earn a limited edition festival green team T-shirt by filling up a standard City of Columbia recycling bag.
"I think that people are willing to make a difference, no matter how small," Merry said. "So, thank a volunteer, and volunteer next year because this work matters."