The Greenest Festival in Idaho 

Music and sustainable living unite at EarthFest 2009

From solar-powered music to biodegradable pint glasses, EarthFest 2009 will be a deeper shade of green than any prior festival in Idaho according to Katherine Lanspery, EarthFest coordinator.

"This is Idaho's greenest festival ever and the first sustainable festival in the state. A team of biologists are even writing up an analysis of what we're doing," Lanspery said.

On Saturday, April 18, an estimated 5,000 to 8,000 people will descend on Idaho Botanical Gardens for what the organizers describe as a "family-oriented event, committed to teaching common sense conservation of our resources, lands and wildlife." Visitors will find plenty to peruse with 41 green-living booths and multiple children's activities. All afternoon and into the evening, 17 bands will play and six speakers will discuss eco-oriented topics from wolves in Idaho to practical recycling tips. Now in its 19th year, EarthFest blurs the line between an environmental convention and a music festival, as organizers and a community of volunteers strive to make this year's fest greener and more grandiose than ever before.

Josh Bogle, founder of Boise-based Green Remodeling and guitarist and vocalist in Boise folk band The Heard, has played EarthFest in years past but feels this show will be different.

EarthFest 2009 coordinator Katherine Lanspery rocks the green. - PHOTO BY JOYCE ALEXANDER

"This year, EarthFest is better organized and there's more energy. Katherine Lanspery is so on the ball," said Bogle.

"This is a festival that people care about. To be a musician, you like to play music for the sake of playing music, but to play a festival with so much work that has gone into it and at a place like the botanical garden, well that's just icing on the cake," said Bogle. Throughout the day, bands will play both a main stage and a side stage, with a variety of Idaho acts such as Polyphonic Pomegranate, The Jacks and Gizzard Stone.

Lanspery, a music lover and outdoors enthusiast, leads an event planning company called Idahoans for Music and the Environment, founded with the goal of promoting environmental stewardship in the music community. A former U.S. Forest Service ecologist (with a master's degree in environmental science and rangeland ecology), Lanspery is the first coordinator hired to plan EarthFest. With Lanspery at the helm, all aspects of the festival are up for environmentally friendly consideration. Green ideas range from giving free admission to festival-goers who walk, bike or skate to the festival, to printing advertising on beer coasters instead of peppering the town with fliers.

To further cut down the carbon footprint, a solar generator built on a 20-foot-long trailer will provide all the power needed for both the stages. Built by Idaho Power, the generator will be used as an exhibit by event volunteers to showcase alternative energy.

"I've been accused of pulling around a solar outhouse," said Scott Gates, renewable energy specialist at Idaho Power, describing the solar trailer, which features a shed for the battery and inverter sitting among the solar panels. For more than a decade, Gates has overseen the evolution of the project, honing the design and showcasing it at events across Idaho. In between concerts and conventions, the trailer has demonstrated the possibilities of alternative power by successfully powering an off-the-grid house for a year. Next up in the design refinement, Gates plans to add turbines to tap wind power.

Along with cutting down on electricity needs, limiting the amount of trash produced is of primary concern for keeping EarthFest green.

"Food vendors are required to use biodegradable plates and utensils," said Seth Brown of Pacific Recycling, describing the low-impact design. Greenness doesn't stop at vendors either. This year, a posse of volunteers will be posted at recycling bins to make sure only correct detritus is deposited therein.

Despite its benefits, recycling is down 50 percent nationally since 2001, according to Brown.

"Many people don't understand their impact as consumers in determining whether recyclable products are put back in the system or buried in the ground. We want to show people that it's easy to go green and here's how," said Brown.

Brown will appear as a speaker and Pacific Recycling will also have a booth aiming to educate anyone, from people looking for a few eco-savvy recycling tips around the home to professional contractors, electrical workers and farmers open to new ways to dispose of scrap metal. Recycling-oriented activities for kids will also be provided.

Completing the concert experience for those who prefer to enjoy music with a drink in hand, Boise Co-op will provide local and regional beer and wine distributed in biodegradable pint glasses. According to Matt Gelsthorpe, Co-op beer guy, this year's picks all hail from breweries committed to protecting the environment, as well as brewing a good beer.

"It's a nice selection. In the Northwest, we are blessed with a bounty of wonderful beers," said Gelsthorpe. Brews from Sierra Nevada, Full Sail and Deschutes Brewery will all make an appearance, as well as local beer from Boise-based Sockeye Brewery and wine from Kuna-based Indian Creek Winery. Gelsthorpe reminds imbibers to bring their IDs.

With EarthFest 2009 aspiring to new heights for green living and music in Idaho, the driving force making this possible, Lanspery asserted, has been an army of volunteers.

"The way the community has come together is spectacular. People take time away from full-time jobs to help. It's amazing," said Lanspery.

Following in the footsteps of other environmentally friendly festivals like Bonnaroo in Tennessee or Rothbury in Michigan, Lanspery hopes EarthFest 2009 will become a blueprint for future music events in Idaho, but also that it will have an immediate impact on green-living for festival-goers.

"The intent is that everyone who comes to EarthFest will walk away with one thing to change in their lives," said Lanspery.

For more information on EarthFest, visit idahoearthfest.org.

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