ACL Festival stays rockin,’ rollin,’ greenin’

Celesia Smith

It’s not hard to picture the aftermath of a music festival.

“There were water bottles and beer cans and whatever else all over the ground,” sustainability studies sophomore Shelby Peyton said. “It was absolutely insane. It wasn’t just recyclables (on the ground). It was food and trays and queso and a bunch of nasty stuff.”

Peyton spent the past weekend at Austin City Limits Music Festival both volunteering and enjoying the music. She was taken aback by how trashed Zilker Metropolitan Park looked at the end of the night and was once again shocked when she came in to volunteer before the festival resumed the next day.

“I came in the next morning and it was absolutely all clear,” Peyton said. “It was like nothing had ever happened. All the trash was gone.”

The efforts of C3 Presents, which is a subsidiary of Live Nation, the entity that owns and operates ACL, and Austin Parks Foundation, the official charity partner of ACL, are behind Peyton’s experience. Both C3 Presents and Austin Parks Foundation work tirelessly to ensure ACL is a positive experience for not only the attendees, but the venue, Zilker Park. ACL’s positive environmental impact is achieved through the implementation of “greening” programs.

One such program in which patrons are encouraged to fill a bag with recyclables in return for a collectible T-shirt designed by a local artist is called Rock and Recycle.

Farid Mosher, senior guest services manager for C3 Presents, said the Rock and Recycle program collected over 3,000 bags of recyclables in both 2016 and 2017. The program is on track to collect even more in 2018.

Another greening program being implemented, Divert It!, aims to educate festival-goers as to what is compostable at the festival. ACL also works with ACL Eats to ensure that vendors adhere to sustainability guidelines and offer compostable food service ware.

On top of Rock and Recycle and Divert It!, ACL offers various CamelBak-sponsored hydration stations to reduce litter. Mosher said in 2017 alone, 698,404 bottles of water were filled by the hydration stations.

“With the water refill stations, it helps us in our objective to reduce single use materials like plastics and cans,” Mosher said. “What we do is permit reusable water bottles onto the festival grounds and we also have them for sale. Fans are excited about festival-branded CamelBak water bottles, for instance, and so they can purchase them on-site as well as bring in their own.”

All of these programs come together to aid in keeping Zilker Park clean throughout the festival, but the positive environmental impact of ACL extends beyond Zilker.

Allison Watkins, chief strategy officer at Austin Parks Foundation, said the funding that Austin Parks Foundation receives from ACL, which totals over $30 million over the past thirteen years, is put toward the maintenance of over 300 trails and green spaces around Austin.

“Whether you buy a one-day pass or a three-day pass or a student ticket or a military-discounted ticket, money goes back to Austin Parks Foundation,” Watkins said. “By going to this festival, (attendees) are doing something good for the community. People may not even realize it, but they are giving back in a way that not only supports the wonderful Zilker Park, but all the parks in the Austin community.”