Sustainability Workshops at LiB

This past weekend I had the honor of working on the press team at Lightning in a Bottle Music and Arts festival in Southern California. This festival is unique from most other festivals in the US as it places an emphasis on sustainability, workshops, and creating transformative experiences. There were four stages/tents where workshops were presented at each day of the festival: Beacon, Crossroads, E.R.A, and Learning Kitchen. The E.R.A. tent (Ecological Renewal Alliance) was a space dedicated to workshops designed to teach attendees about different aspects of sustainability ranging from climate change to economic opportunities for indigenous people. Over the course of the three days I attended LiB I attended numerous workshops, all I found educational, insightful, and entertaining.

The first workshop I attended was at the Learning Kitchen called “Regenerative Soil Practices and Juice”. This workshop was presented by JR Simich from Vive Organic, an organic juice producer. During the workshop JR and his cohost discussed the struggles that face successful small independent organic produce companies as they try to manage scaleability while staying true to their values. One of the biggest takeaways I took from the presentation was when JR told us to “Learn what companies own the food you eat”. Nestle, Kellog’s, and General Mills own nearly everything you see in your average grocery store like a Safeway or Albertson’s. Even the more healthy organic options are often owned by these large corporations, and after being acquired the product is never the same. It is an insidious business because corporations prey on successful smaller organic produce companies and give them the choice to either be bought out or driven out of business by going after their suppliers. 

We learned about the story of Vive organic and how they have managed to grow the company without sacrificing the core tenants from which the company was built on. They were nice enough to pass out samples so we could all try their Immunity Boost shot!


I also learned that most wheat in large scale production is sprayed with the notorious “Roundup” which has a byproduct glyphosate that causes numerous problems with the gut. It’s even speculated that most people that think they are gluten intolerant are actually just having a reaction to the glyphosate found in bread.

The next workshop I went to was at E.R.A. and was called “Protecting Native Elders and Building Capacity to meet Future Challenges with IndieHub”. This workshop was presented by Bleu Adams and covered techniques she uses to help her indigenous community become prosperous. Because of decades of oppression and removal from their native lands, indigenous people have difficult time becoming successful in the current economic structure. The most common path for many Native American’s is to go into the casino/gambling industry. While this can sometimes be a lucrative industry, it has caused a detoration of the culture and values of the youth living in tribal reservations. Bleu created Indigehub to function as a space where entrepreneurs are born through creative collaboration, business education and networking. Indigehub is helping to combat some of the unique challenges that Native American reservations are currently facing. Bleu’s mission is to strengthen not only her own Navajo community but to also connect Native American reservations across the country. Bleu believes that by providing a place to unite, the Tribal Nations can work as a whole to create a platform for current and future generations to work towards a better economic future while maintaining their rich culture.

The E.R.A. merch booth

I then walked over to the largest workshop tent; the Beacon to check out “The Difference Between a Lightning Bug and Lightning: Creating Social Change at Scale”. This workshop was presented by Louis Psihooyos & Travis Threlkel who are environmentalists, documentarians, and artists. Louis Psihooyos is best know for his work on the documentary films The Cove and Racing Extinction. The two talked about some of the best methods they have found to wake people up to the understanding that sustainability and conservation are an urgent matter that effects the future of humanity. They believe in using shocking imagery to convey the urgency of matters like climate change and environmental destruction. For example, the footage they captured of dolphins being slaughtered in Japan while filming The Cove that since its release in 2009, dolphin killings have gone down by 90%.

While walking around the festival it was encouraging to see signage all around the festival that encouraged festival goers to live more sustainably. In fact, I think this Lightning in a Bottle was the most sustainable music festival I have ever attended… so bravo for them! There was definitely a conscious effort made by the festival vendors to deduce the amount of plastic and single use items sold at the festival. I noticed that the majority of the food vendors sold only vegan foods. This may have been an annoyance to some but I think it was a great way for non-vegans (like myself) to try some new foods. The vegan pesto pizza was amazing and I couldn’t even taste the difference!

This was the first festival that I have been to where they had food compost bins through0ut the festival along with recycling. The “Green Team” would also walk around the festival and pick up and sort items that may have been misplaced.

At the campsites there were waste collection sites that took in peoples trash for a fee and recycling for free. This encouraged people to get in the habit of sorting their recycling and compost materials so that they would have to pay less to dispose of everything at the end of the festival. In theory, this would work great but in reality this was one area that LiB could definitely improve on for next year. Charging a fee to dispose of your trash properly actually discouraged many to bring their trash to the disposal stations, and at the end of the festival there were massive mounds of trash left by port-a-potites from those unwilling to carry it to the proper disposal location. To solve this problem for next year, I would suggest charging all attendees a $20 deposit fee for trash at time of ticket purchase that would be refunded to them at the end of the festival after proper disposal of trash.

To conclude, I had a wonderful time at Lightning in a Bottle this year and found the workshops to be very enlightening and educational. I have never been to another music festival that placed such an emphasis on sustainability and for that I applaud them!

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