Sustainability Initiatives at Shambhala Music Festival + Interview

Shambhala Music Festival celebrated it’s 21st year running this August and is recognized as one of the most premier music festivals in the world. Situated along the Salmo River in the beautiful forest of British Columbia, Shambhala prides itself on being able to give festival-goers a unique experience of camping and enjoying music in nature. Along with world renowned music producers/DJs, Shambhala features workshops, yoga classes, interactive group activities, a vendor village and art installations.

The festival is also unique in that is held on a private property that serves as a working farm (Salmo River Ranch) the rest of the year. Each year over 15,000 attendees and staff come to the festival that runs from Tuesday-Monday; with the vast majority of attendees camping in tents or RVs. With this many people living in a condensed environment for nearly a week, sustainability is primary concern for the festival organizers who want to preserve the longevity of the festival and surrounding environment. Organic, locally-sourced food is supplied through the festival’s own venues; Night Owl (locally roasted coffee from Oso Negro), Farm Fresh (fresh, organic ingredients made into smoothies) and Blaze Burgers (organic grass fed cows raised on the Salmo River Ranch). An organization called The Green River Collective works hard to keep the Salmo River as pristine as possible and has implemented pocket ashtrays, biodegradable glitter/sunscreen rules, and compost/recycling canisters along the river.

Flower and vegetable garden
Smoothie shop with ingredients from the organic gardens

I had the opportunity to interview the manager of the Green River Collective, Scott Dale about the importance of sustainability at Shambhala. Full interview posted below.

1. What is your affiliation with Shambhala and how many years have you attended? (As a fan or part of the crew)

I have managed the Green River Collective for 7 years and I have attended the festival for 14 years now.

2. What aspects of Shambhala do you think set it apart from other music festivals?

I really can’t answer this question as it is the only electronic music festival I attend.

3. What sustainability practices are put in place at Shambhala to protect the surrounding environment and animals from the farm?

As far as protection for wildlife goes we try to discourage nesting Birds prior to the festival. We have also put up bird houses to encourage them to Nest elsewhere. After the festival, crews are constantly on patrol for bears that come in smelling the massive garbage piles.

4. What are some tips you would give to festival attendees to reduce their impact on the farm and their carbon footprint from traveling to it?

As far as tips for attendees to reduce their carbon footprints we suggest that people don’t idle their cars when they’re in line. We also encourage them to bring their own cutlery plates tupperware’s water bottles Etc. To reduce their footprint on the river we suggest they stay in bounds and not wander into the neighbor’s property. We ask they pick up garbage when they see it and leave no Trace when they leave.

5. A lot of the people that attend Shambhala seem to be aware of their impact of the environment, climate change, pollution, etc. However, there’s always some people that either don’t care or are oblivious to the impact they can make as individuals (not recycling, littering, using non biodegradable products in the river) Do you think we can get these types of people to change through education and shaming? Or do you think festivals should start taking a harsher stance by imposing fines or removal from the fest?

I don’t believe in shaming attendees for not following the rules of etiquette. I believe in leading by example and letting people come to their own conclusion of what the right thing to do is. I believe a lot of people lose things. I believe a lot of garbage we find on the river is flotsam and not Jetsam. There will always be people that just don’t care and that’s why we’re here. Good news is people are waking up and the number of people who do care far outweigh the number of people that don’t. If we all work as a collective our consciousness will grow.

6. What are some eco plans or ideas you would like to implement for future Shambhalas’ that are not in place now?

We have some great ideas for the future on how to improve. You’ll have to stay tuned to see what we come up with.

7. It’s cool that Shambhala benefits the local economy by sourcing much of the food from the festival from local farms. Are there any other ways Shambhala benefits the local community and economy that people may not be aware of?

Shambhala has invested a lot of time and money into the local college arts and music program.

Bonus question: What are your top 3 artists were you most excited to see this year?

I work very hard everyday while I’m at the festival. The well being of the river takes priority over the music for me. But I did enjoy the Lazy Syrup Orchestra, Dirtwire, and Justin Hale.

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