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School doesn’t start until September 6th, and fall isn’t supposed to officially arrive until September 23rd this year. But everything after the end of Sandpoint’s summer music festival seems like the denouement of the season in Sandpoint. We even had a spot of rain yesterday. The iconic big tent is already down, rolled up and stored until next August. Smaller tents remain, along with huge collections of chairs, boxes, hoses, cables, coolers, dollies, tables, and garbage cans. But no garbage. The festival’s impressive and activist all-volunteer Green Team has seen to that.

It’s the End of the Festival–But the Garbage Keeps on Going

School doesn’t start until September 6th, and fall isn’t supposed to officially arrive until September 23rd this year. But everything after the end of Sandpoint’s summer music festival seems like the denouement of the season in Sandpoint. We even had a spot of rain yesterday.

The iconic big tent is already down, rolled up and stored until next August. Smaller tents remain, along with huge collections of chairs, boxes, hoses, cables, coolers, dollies, tables, and garbage cans.

But no garbage. The festival’s impressive and activist all-volunteer Green Team has seen to that.

After every concert, as festival-goers are folding up their blankets and heading home, Green Team volunteers pick up every last bit of flotsam the revelers leave behind, down to the smallest piece of food wrapper and broken bit of plastic wine glass.

But cleaning the field is just a slice of what the team does. By the time they swoop down with their latex gloves and garbage bags, they’ve been working since the moment the gates opened and the masses flooded in, directing festival-goers’ garbage to as many places as possible other than the landfill.

Seven waste stations around the field provide opportunities for patrons to sort their leavings into bins for recycling aluminum, plastic, glass, compostable waste, and even wine bottle corks. The “silverware” patrons have gotten from food vendors on Festival Street goes into the compost bin—it’s actually made from corn, and concert-goers are often amazed that they can compost their forks and knives. Even the bones from the ribs sold on Festival Street are collected in buckets and made available to discriminating local canines.

With more and more trash not going to a landfill, the festival’s garbage costs have been dropping precipitously over the last few years, according to a report filed in this week’s Sandpoint Reader. In 2008, the total cost was close to $3600, last year it was less than half that at $1770, and this year’s total cost is expected to decline further.

Much of the credit for the success of the team can be traced to its volunteer leaders, Ellen Weissman and Terra Cressey. Weissman provides continuous email cheerleading throughout the festival, sending morning-after reports to team members to celebrate successes and note areas for continued improvement. She has an endearing penchant for the use of exclamation marks: “Congratulations to us!!! What a fabulous accomplishment!! What a team!!” Her final missive yesterday morning, at the end of the festival, included souvenir photos of the various piles of sorted trash.

The Green Team’s headed off Friday night to a party at the Selle Valley farm where all the organic waste has been taken for composting. When the compost is ready, it will be donated to the healing garden next to the hospital. So the festival’s trash comes back to benefit those who generated it.

But for now, all vestiges of the festival are rapidly disappearing from its venue. Soon the field will be reclaimed by the football and soccer teams that call it home. Just as the garbage eventually will, the seasons have come full circle.

About Cate Huisman

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