Kid with skatedeck

A group of Grist hotties ladies just returned from the Sasquatch Music Festival at the Gorge in George, Wash., where we spent two days volunteering at the TRASHed Recycling Store, sponsored by Global Inheritance, a hip nonprofit based in California that combines creativity, youthful enthusiasm, and activism into unique, progressive-minded projects. They travel around and do activisty things at different events that the yoot flock to, like Coachella, the X Games, and Sasquatch. We heart Global Inheritance big time.

The TRASHed Recycling Store is a place where concertgoers can turn in recyclable cans and bottles in exchange for points. They get a point for each can or bottle, and in exchange for their points, they get free stuff, with small prizes like stickers and buttons for one to five cans, and big things like skateboard decks and iPod speakers for 260-300 cans. There are also cool prizes for the biggest recycler each day and the biggest recycler for the weekend. It’s a great idea, and everyone was really into it. On Saturday, the pile of bags filled with cans was up to the roof of our tent and spilling out onto the lawn. We must have counted out 20,000 for the weekend, or hundreds and hundreds of pounds of recyclables that would otherwise have been thrown into landfills.

Cute little kids were into it, picking up enough cans off the lawn to earn themselves a skateboard deck. One female duo collected a whopping 1,600 cans between the two of them. It was pretty inspiring to see people excited about saving the planet, I must say.

But now that I’ve glowed a bit about how much fun it was recycling this weekend, there’s a more important point to be made. By far, the most shocking thing about the weekend was looking at all of those recyclables piled high and realizing that if Global Inheritance wasn’t there, all of them would have gone in the trash. There was not a single recycling bin at the concert other than the three in our tent, located in the corner of one stage area. There were no recycling bins near the other two stages, none near the food stands, and not a single one in the campsite, either. For lack of a better option, most people tossed all their cans and bottles into the trash cans, where they were (presumably) hauled off to the dump, unless one of the more industrious folks plucked them from certain death and brought them to our tent. With 22,000 people there each day — each drinking plenty of cold beverages — the number of recyclables that got tossed far outnumbered the number we recycled. I don’t even want to talk about the campsite, which was littered with beer cans by the thousands.

It’s pretty ridiculous nowadays that anyone thinks that tossing stuff that can be reused is OK — especially at an outdoor summer music festival where everyone is pounding the bottled water, soda, and beer for multiple days on end. If anyone’s on board, it should be festival organizers and venue managers, knowing just how much junk is created there each summer. And in such a beautiful, natural setting!

Even more frustrating? This year, concert organizers did the “in” thing and went carbon neutral, offsetting the emissions that the concert generated. They touted their carbon neutrality all over their site, urging concertgoers to join them in reducing their carbon footprint. But they couldn’t bother to get a few recycling bins? Come on, guys! Give me a break.

Even the most anti-environmental folks realize that recycling is good business. It’s not that hard to put out a few bins, or even label some of the regular trash cans “Recycling.” Putting out more bins has to be cheaper than hiring all those people to come in and clean up the lawn after everyone’s gone home. And I’m not sure how the garbage disposal system works there, but in some places in the United States, you pay by the pound. So every pound you recycle saves you cash, giving you even more incentive to divert stuff that can be reused from entering the waste stream.

Anyway, I’m totally disappointed that festival organizers would take the trendy, flashy step of offsetting their emissions, but not bother to put out a few frickin’ bins. I’m glad that Global Inheritance (a small nonprofit organization unaffiliated with Sasquatch) could help save a few hundred pounds of recyclables from the landfill and convince some folks to join in by offering them free stuff, but that’s not enough in light of all the recyclables we missed. Send a note to Sasquatch organizers at info@sasquatchfestival.com about why not-recycling is pure rubbish. And if you see similar happenings at your local concert venue, get to emailin’ their customer service reps, too.