Photo credit: Eraj Asadi

Photo credit: Eraj Asadi

This post is sponsored by Boxed Water, who (in a lovely case of synergy) is partnering with a music festival that I'm attending this weekend along with dozens of my friends and acquaintances. As always, I only partner with companies in whose ethos I truly believe. Support EcoCult by supporting them! I'm off to another festival this weekend! I know, my schedule this summer is bordering on ridiculous, but this one I really couldn't pass up. First, because many of my friends will be there. Second, because my fiancé will be playing a closing DJ set on Sunday. And third, because this one is above-and-beyond sustainable. Gratitude Migration is an immersive arts and music camping festival taking place one hour from NYC in Keansburg, New Jersey on a beach they call hELLO Beach. In its second year, this collaborative, three-day event pulls on the skills of the Brooklyn underground arts and music community, along with collectives from Philadelphia, DC, and New Jersey. In short, it's like a mini Burning Man, but with water to take a dip in and healthy food and drinks to buy. (Tickets are still available, by the way!) This year Gratitude has partnered with Betty Blue, who recently launched Ahimsa Warriors, a company that helps corporations, institutions, and consumers make mindful, compassionate, and peaceful decisions with their products and services. Betty will serve as Gratitude's eco consultant, and bring the festival to a whole new level of eco-consciousness. "I was inspired by Envision Festival," Betty told me. That's the annual music and arts festival in Costa Rica. "They did not allow any plastic on site. The vendors did not give out any plastic plates or utensils – you had to have your own eco-ware plates. They were giving out coconuts without straws. They also had a great selection of tasty plant-based food options. As a plant-based consumer, I know the effects that animal agriculture has on the environment, so this was huge contribution. I was so inspired by all of this, when I got back I spoke to Gratitude about implementing some of these things. Drew [Meeks, a co-organizer] was very much in line with these ideas. They’ve been trying to implement eco initiatives for years." Their sustainability plan is impressively comprehensive. Here are some of the ways in which Gratitude is making it easy for attendees to feel good about their festival footprint:

1. Bye, Bottled Water

One of Gratitude's key sustainability initiatives is a partnership with Boxed Water, so that attendees can have an alternative to plastic water bottles. With the festival being on the beach, this particular partnership is crucial – plastic bottles, along with plastic bags, contribute more plastic pollution to the ocean than any other products. Boxed Water has 76% less plastic inside the 100% recyclable container than a typical plastic water bottle (some plastic is necessary so that the sustainably sourced cardboard doesn't immediately get soaked through). The company will also be providing special recycling bins shaped like giant Boxed Waters. "We’ve been talking about this in social media – festival goers are aware of it, so they don’t need to bring plastic water bottles," Betty says. "We are encouraging them to bring their reusable bottles to refill with some free water that we are providing for safe and health reasons. If they need to buy, they can also buy Boxed Water." It's a clever solution to the problem of convenience. The apotheosis of Leave No Trace, Burning Man attendees are easily convinced not to bring in crates of water bottles – it's cheaper and much more efficient to rent big barrels of water for all of your needs, especially since there are no vendors out in the Nevada desert. But at a less intense festival like Gratitude, which does have vendors and is only an hour's travel time from New York City and a short walk from convenience stores, the easy availability of a more sustainable alternative to typical bottled water is crucial. (Oh, and if you post a picture of your Boxed Water to instagram with #retree, they will plant a tree, so tag them this weekend!)

2. Leave No Litter

Gratitude bills itself as a LAPT (Leave a Positive Trace) event. That means not only picking up after yourself, but picking up any stray trash you might see inadvertently left behind by others. Attendees are encouraged to unwrap any supplies they bought for the festival, like reusable plates or a sleeping bag, and leave the packaging at home in the recycling so that the bits don't blow away into the water. Plus, Sustainability & Leave No Trace (LNT) stations will have recycling and composting areas and classes, and volunteers will go through the trash and sort it. If that isn't enough, there will be a Gratitude MOOP parade on Friday and Saturday from 5 - 6 pm. (MOOP is a Burner term for "matter out of place," a.k.a. litter.) The parade of litter-picker-uppers will be led by the Bag Monster, a costumed volunteer who wears the number of used plastic bags an average American uses in a year to illustrate the scale of our waste. Local artist Samantha Roesemann will be building (Re)fluoresce Fantasia, a communal recycling art dome made out of used recycled bottles, cans and waste. Attendees who are done with their plastic can contribute it to the art project. “By the end of the festival, this art piece will be auctioned off to benefit local water ways through ClearWater.org,” Betty says.
Photo credit: Eraj Asadi

Photo credit: Eraj Asadi

3. Cutting Down on Carbon

The organizers encourage festival goers to arrive to Keansburg by public transportation – bus, ferry, or train – and provide shuttle buses from the town to the beach area they've dubbed hELLO Beach. If you can pack super light, or convince someone to take your stuff with them, you could even ride your bike there. Just bike to Pier 11 in the Financial District, take the Belford/Harbor Way Ferry to Belford/Harbor Way Terminal. Once in New Jersey, it's a 20-minute ride. There won't be a lot of energy on site for attendees to tap into, but what energy there is will be pedal-power charging stations provided by K-TOR and biodiesel-fueled generators.

4. Reduce, Reuse

In keeping with the Burning Man spirit, attendees are strongly encouraged to bring their own reusable bottles, plates, cups with lids, utensils, and straws. The food and beverage vendors are prepared and pumped to serve their food into your reusable items. Attendees can bring a case of beer and a handle of liquor – as long as they transfer it from a glass bottle into a reusable bottle. No glass allowed on the beach! "If they don’t want to buy reusable containers, they still have the choice to get compostable, biodegradable cups, plates, and utensils at every vendor for an additional small fee," Betty says. When people say, 'Why do I have to pay for this?' It opens up the conversation so that vendors can say, 'We are trying to cut down on plastic waste!'" The plates are made from sustainably sourced palm leaves that are collected once they drop to the forest floor. The utensils are made of bamboo. And the cups are made from a compostable, bioplastic. Vendors are banned from giving out plastic straws, hallelujah! And plastic bar stirrers will be replaced by gluten-free linguine. Attendees can bring the compostable dishes and utensils to the compost area.

5. Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants.

Local New Jersey-based, family-owned company called SuperJuice Nation, which sources local and organic ingredients for its juices, will be there, along with other mostly plant-based vendors: Plant Candy, Freakin’ Vegan, Nyota’s Ting, V Spot, ShoreShake, and The Deep End (which will provide educational material around choosing responsibly-sourced meat). My favorite, Pilot Kombucha, (I'm literally drinking it right now as I write this) will have a Tapped Kombucha Bar at the Mandala Biergarten. You'll also find Raw Revolution, Barnaba, Harmless Harvest coconut water, and more. Plus, a small farm stand will sell fresh, local produce right on the beach.
Photo credit: Daniele Siele

Photo credit: Daniele Siele

6. Get Educated.

Gratitude Migration isn't just about partying. It's also about improving your consciousness. An Eco Stage at School of Dreams will feature workshops, cooking classes, demos, speakers, book signings and a shamanic eco closing circle on Sunday. And I will finally get to see the film Cowspiracy, a powerful educational environmental documentary co-executive produced by Leonardo DiCaprio which everyone has been telling me I need to see. "This is basically rationalizing through the film why we have the plant-based vendors," Betty says. 

7. Beauty Inside and Out.

BioSolis, an organic sunscreeen company, and Sustain Natural, the bedroom essentials company, will both be there. Biodegradable glitter company BioGlitz will be holding crafting workshops with focus on sustainability and eco consciousness. These initiatives mean that the sustainable set, which includes me, of course, won't be frustrated by the lack of options. But the success of this eco event still largely depends on attendees. So if you're headed there this weekend, support Gratitude's hard work by doing some planning of your own: Wear sustainable fashion that doesn't have plastic pieces that break apart. Bring reusable cups, bottles, plates, utensils, straws, and handkerchiefs. Pack efficiently, and choose a sustainable mode of transportation out there. This time, you have no excuses!