You’d have a hard time finding someone who knows Eco Lands better than Morgan Fitzgibbons. As our Director of Sustainability and Community Engagement, he’s played an important role in making Outside Lands an industry leader in environmental awareness and sustainability.
We caught up with Morgan to learn more about Eco Lands, Flower Lands and what makes Outside Lands special.
OL: How long have you been working with Outside Lands?
MF: I started out running a booth in Eco Lands for my community organization, The Wigg Party, in 2011. In 2014, I stepped up to become Program Director for Eco Lands as a whole. And now I’m stepping up again to become the Director of Sustainability and Community Engagement for the whole festival.
OL: For those who haven’t experienced it before, what is Eco Lands?
MF: Eco Lands is the part of the festival that has the most direct focus on sustainability and community. The foundation of Eco Lands is our nearly 20 amazing non-profit partners that each produce an experience at a booth around the Panhandle stage. On top of that foundation, we’re extending our mission through other programming like Sober Lands, Flower Lands, a group bike ride to and from the festival each day, and introducing a community focused scavenger hunt last year, Ranger Dave’s Junior Ranger Training Program.
OL: How do you choose the organizations that set up shop in Hellman Hollow?
MF: We have a strong focus on organizations that are unique to San Francisco and the rich tradition of environmental advocacy and social change here in the Bay Area. For an organization to be invited into Eco Lands, they have to a) do amazing work in the world and b) produce a fun, dynamic experience at Outside Lands. We’re not interested in organizations that just want to sit behind a table and have you sign up to their email list.
OL: Flower Lands is a relatively new experience in Eco Lands. Why is it important to buy local flowers?
MF: Most people don’t realize that the vast majority of flowers sold in the United States are imported from abroad. Over 75% of flowers sold in the US come from Colombia alone. So it’s a hugely global industry and the system required to get a stem cut from the savannah outside of Bogotá to your kitchen counter before the flower wilts is incredibly energy intensive. Not to mention the ills of the lax labor and environmental regulations abroad. Meanwhile, we’ve had a whole floral industry here in the US decimated in the 25 years since the passage of the global trade deals that facilitated this shift. People maybe think about trying to buy their food locally, but buying local flowers hasn’t really penetrated. There are some wonderful local growers that we work with through the North Bay Flower Collective who grow beautiful flowers and are amazing designers. Support your local flower grower!
OL: You could say Flower Lands has really blossomed over the years. (Pun intended.) How will it continue to grow in 2019?
MF: Outside Lands has always been at the forefront of sustainability on the festival scene, but, as we get into our second decade, we’re really looking to double down and become the unquestioned global leader in large-scale event sustainability. That involves looking at every element of the festival and a lot of long-term thinking, but, for 2019, we’re uniquely positioned to highlight the value of sourcing flowers locally. Flowers have always been an important and powerful motif for Outside Lands and we’re looking to emphasize that even more by empowering our Flower Lands team to extend their design talents and floral touches beyond the confines of the Flower Lands area in Eco Lands.
OL: What makes Outside Lands a special festival for you?
MF: I’m a student of the cultural history of San Francisco and the birth of the modern music festival, having taught a course at the University of San Francisco on the Hippie movement in the Haight-Ashbury. To me, Outside Lands holds unique power, both because it physically takes place on the exact same ground as the original, archetypal gathering in January 1967, the Human Be-In, and because the production team at Superfly and Another Planet also revere that history and work very hard to build an experience that is true to the original values and intentions of a transformational gathering.
OL: What do you want people to take away from your work at Outside Lands?
MF: Over the next ten years, we’re going to be doing all that we can to make Outside Lands zero-waste, carbon-neutral, and generally as environmentally low-impact as possible. We think we can get really far down that road, but any event that brings 70,000 people together is by definition heavily energy-intensive, even if only viewed from the perspective of the money people pay to come and the energy they’re bringing to the grounds every day. So I’m keenly interested in maximizing what people get out of what they put in. My hope is that people take away an experience that is more than just fun, that they can build community, be inspired, and grow in a meaningful way. I hope that Outside Lands is a small but important part of the larger cultural transformation that we simply must bring about on the planet, like, right now. In the end, I’m not sure much else matters.