Gasparilla Music Festival Makes Environmental Sustainability A Priority

The third annual Gasparilla Music Festival, featuring The Flaming Lips and a two-day line-up of bands, returns to Curtis Hixon Park and Kiley Gardens in downtown Tampa March 8-9.

But music lovers aren't the only ones who will have something to celebrate at the 2014 Gasparilla Music Festival. Proponents of the sustainability movement and good environmental custodianship also will have reasons to applaud at the two-day festival.

Planners behind the festival are implementing an assortment of sustainability measures to lessen Gasparilla’s impact on the natural environment. These measures include attempts to reduce traffic congestion and carbon emissions, and to find ways to reuse solid and food waste to send less garbage to the landfill.
"We want to reduce our impact on our community and promote a sustainable festival,'' says Taylor Ralph, a Gasparilla Music Festival board member.

Ralph is president of REAL Building Consultants, which advises members of the design and build industries on sustainability issues, and has been a big force behind the festival's sustainability efforts. Ralph says festivals and large events now have more options for to reducing their negative impacts on the environment, and the Gasparilla Music Festival's efforts are comprehensive and "well-rounded.''
One of the Gasparilla Music Festival's sustainability measures is a complimentary bicycle valet service provided by Coast Bike Share. It works much like a car valet service. A guest can pedal his or her bike to the event, and an attendant will take the bicycles to a secure location and give the guest a ticket to reclaim it. Last year, 450 guests used this service. This year, the festival is expecting to accommodate 600 bicycle riders, Ralph says.

The festival organizers also are encouraging guests to carpool or use public transportation. Buses from the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART). TECO Line streetcars and river taxis will be alternate ways guests can get to the festival. The festival is teaming up with The Heights, which can host about 2,000 vehicles. A shuttle service will be provided to take guests from The Heights to Curtis Hixon Park every 15 minutes or so.
The City of Tampa will provide recycling receptacles throughout the festival. Last year, festival goers produced 4.1 tons of waste. About 1.2 tons (30 percent) of that was recycled.

The festival also is partnering with Boxed Water to provide drinking water in boxes made mostly of recycled material. All water available at the festival will be provided in these boxes.

Turning Food Waste Into Compost

This year, the festival is taking measures to remove food from the segment of its waste stream that winds up in the dump. The festival is partnering with Whitwam Organics to turn the food waste into compost. David Whitwam, founder of the Tampa-based Whitwam, says the materials will be processed into compost for community gardens.
Whitwam will provide bins that food vendors can use to separate compost materials and will be guiding vendors in what trash items can be composted. He also is partnering with Tampa Bay Harvest to collect unused edible food from vendors for food banks.

Whitwam Organics provides landscaping and composting services and also helps community gardens take root. Whitwam sees the festival as an opportunity to expand his business and start working with local restaurants to collect their compostable waste. He also sees the festival's sustainability measures as an example to others, and he hopes the right people are taking notice.
Festivals "almost have a responsibility to be more green,'' he says.

The Gasparilla Music Festival is also partnering with We Are Neutral, a Gainesville-based company that sells locally created carbon offsets. The business will take a look at the festival's carbon footprint, and the organizers will be purchasing carbon offsets. On its website, We Are Neutral defines carbon offsets as "any action taken to mitigate the carbon dioxide resulting from the creation of the energy used to turn on lights, run water, travel, grow food or manufacture goods.'' The company creates carbon offsets by planting indigenous trees and providing free of charge retrofits to low-income communities.
"This is something other large festivals around the country have been doing for years and we're proud to lead by example here in Tampa,'' says Ty Rodriguez, the Gasparilla Music Festival's executive director.

Alex Tiegen is a freelance writer living in New Port Richey in Pasco County, north of Tampa. Comments? Contact 83 Degrees.
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