Sustainable Shambhala

Shambhala Music festival is a world renowned music festival that takes place along the beautiful Salmo River in British Columbia, Canada. Shambhala is unique in that it takes place on what is a family farm for the rest of the year. This creates a special environment and vibe among its attendees and staff and gives special awareness to keeping the space as environmentally friendly as possible. Every music festival brings with it a certain type of crowd; some attract the average party-goer and some attract hedonistic teens. Shambhala attracts special type of people who generally interested in spiritual healing, conservation, music, and spreading positive energy. The festival has a loyal team of staff who leave the festival grounds weeks after the end of the weekend to ensure the well-being of the farm and Salmo River. At the festival itself it is all smiles and hugs; it is common to see signs referencing the “Farmily”, the term attendees have coined to represent the inclusion of all guests into the farm family. Thanks to the Shambhala Press and Media team I was able to experience the festival to evaluate and implement some sustainability practices.

As with any music festival anywhere in the world, people smoke cigarettes at Shambhala. It is reality that is dealt with the festival by offering festival attendees free “Pocket Ashtrays” to carry around with them and dispose their cigarette butts in properly. These handy ashtrays were a great way to get people to be mindful of their environmental impact and feel as they are contributing to the well-being of the festival. The festival organizers believe in the “MOOP” (Matter out of place) ideology meaning that they want to leave the festival grounds in the same or better condition than at the beginning on the festival.

This year at Shamb I wanted to create an event that would incorporate environmental conservation with doing a fun activity so I decided to organize a beach cleanup along the Salmo River. People gathered around the river usually do a great job of cleaning up after themselves but with thousands of attendees there was bound to be some who forgot to clean up after themselves.

The goal was to create a fun party line of people to walk down the rivers edge with a portable speaker cleaning up trash along the way. Unfortunately for us, mother nature had other plans in mind and it was rainy and cold the last two days of the festival. While this did put a damper on the beach clean up party, we did gather a fun group of people to participate. The good news was that since it was raining the last two days, not many people partied on the river meaning there was not nearly as much garbage as there would have been.

Another great aspect of Shambhala are its options of food vendors. Being that the festival takes place on a farm it has the rare advantage of having the freshest farm-to-table food of probably 99% of festivals in the world. You can get smoothies with fruit grown locally or even organic grass fed burgers from cows living on the farm. There is even vegetable gardens located in the middle of the festival square!

To conclude, my experience at Shambhala this year was nothing short of spectacular and I encourage everyone to go if they can. I’ve been to over 30 festivals now and Shamb is definitely in the top 3 most environmentally conscious and sustainable that I’ve been to. The vibes of the attendees coupled with the dedication of the festival organizers really creates a magical space in the beautiful British Columbia forest. It’s no wonder that the festival has been running for over 20 years; see you next year!

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