Since forming in the late 90s, Clean Vibes has worked at hundreds of festivals, diverted Over 18 million pounds of waste from landfills, and educated countless music fans on recycling, composting and proper waste disposal.
We talked to co-owner Anna Borofsky about their mission, why she loves San Francisco and how fans can volunteer at Outside Lands this August!
OL: When did you decide to combine your love of music with environmental awareness?
AB: I majored in Environmental Studies at the University of Vermont many years ago and have always had a love for live music. I actually spent a semester in college touring with Percy Hill, a NH based jam band, as their merch girl and managed to get internship credit for the experience. In 1998, I worked at Phish’s Lemonwheel, a large multi-day camping festival in northern Maine. This was the first incarnation of Clean Vibes and we were really just focused on cleaning up the mess. After 2 weeks in the rain cleaning incredibly messy campgrounds, I found myself very disheartened by the experience. I felt that I either needed to separate myself from the music scene I loved that now seemed to be filled with “hippie-crits”, or make an active effort to try to change these events through education and action. Over twenty years later, I think it’s clear which direction I chose.
OL: If you had to guess, how many festivals has Clean Vibes worked?
AB: I believe we have worked well over 400 multi-day festivals. When we include the smaller single day events that our local San Francisco Bay Area branch handles, we have easily worked upwards of 650 events.
OL: What exactly does a Trash Talker do?
AB: A Trash Talker is a Clean Vibes’ volunteer who helps to educate festival patrons about which materials go in which waste stream. For many it still is not common knowledge that, at an event such as Outside Lands, your cup and your fork and of course your leftover food is compostable. The Trash Talkers explain what is recyclable and what is compostable to the festival patrons to ensure that we divert all of this material. Especially at an event like Outside Lands – it’s probably compost!
OL: Fans can visit the Clean Vibes’ Trading Post in the Polo Field. What can they expect?
AB: At the Clean Vibes’ Trading Post, we like to say that we don’t take cash and we don’t take trash. The Trading Post is an exchange center where cans and bottles attendees collect become the “currency”, and the more recycling gathered, the more valuable items participants can “purchase.” Items include products donated by sustainably minded companies, donations from artists performing at Outside Lands, vouchers for delicious food from the onsite vendors, and event merchandise. In addition to recyclables, participants can also collect cigarette butts or compostable items to earn more “currency” while also diverting other streams of event waste. Providing event attendees with immediate rewards enables us to directly engage people in the clean up process, educate them about the importance of recycling and divert as much of the event’s waste as possible from the landfill!
OL: What makes Outside Lands a special festival?
AB: For the Clean Vibes crew, Outside Lands is special because we have the full support of the Superfly and Another Planet teams, as well as the city of San Francisco, in allowing us to achieve our seemingly crazy waste diversion goals. The amount of coordination and planning that it takes to truly eliminate almost all landfill waste from an event of this size is massive. Our ability to divert 92% of the event waste at Outside Lands in 2018 would not have been possible without the support and cooperation of all the staff involved in the event. Additionally, working in a city that truly supports and celebrates our waste diversion goals makes our efforts that much more rewarding.
OL: Clean Vibes has maintained a presence in the Bay Area for years. What about the region inspires you?
AB: When Clean Vibes came to the Bay Area for the first Outside Lands in 2008, I think a mutual love affair began. We were thrilled to be in a city that promoted recycling and composting as intensely as Clean Vibes, and the city truly appreciated our commitment to providing comprehensive diversion solutions to events. We are now in our sixth year of operating a Bay Area branch of Clean Vibes to be able to provide our high standards of event cleaning and waste diversion to smaller local events. We love educating and inspiring people about waste diversion in this area. Also – we are always looking for more local staff to assist in our waste diversion efforts.
OL: How can people get involved with Clean Vibes at Outside Lands 2019?
AB: Anyone interested in being a Trash Talker® or helping with other aspects of our cleanup can learn more about our volunteer opportunities and sign up here. Our volunteer positions for Outside Lands are filling up faster than ever before, so don’t delay!