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BottleRock organizers step up sustainability push at Napa music festival

BottleRock organizers step up sustainability push at Napa music festival


The quest for a more efficient, less wasteful BottleRock has extended to some of the Napa music festival’s largest and smallest details – from the buses carrying spectators to the glasses used to serve the valley’s wines.

A host of programs during the music extravaganza that began Friday have been designed to lighten the footprint of an estimated more than 100,000 spectators converging on downtown Napa for three days. Buses ferried fans to BottleRock from as far away as San Francisco and Sacramento, while organizers described a stepped-up move toward compostable or reusable food and drink packaging, including a move away from selling water in disposable bottles.

The drive to reduce waste will continue even after BottleRock’s conclusion Sunday night, members of festival producer Latitude 38 Entertainment said last week. More than two tons of unsold food at the Napa Valley Expo will be moved to refrigerated storage for local food banks and assistance groups to pick up Tuesday at the Third Street fairground to distribute and serve, according to organizers.

BottleRock buses funneling spectators into Napa served much of the Bay Area including Santa Rosa, San Francisco, Oakland, and San Jose, and also operated east toward Fairfield and Sacramento, according to organizers. Napa County’s VINE Transit also offered free rides and extended evening service during the weekend, including express service to BART train stops.

As an extra inducement, organizers this year staged a promotion awarding free upgrades into BottleRock’s VIP section to randomly selected guests – provided they arrived in Napa by bus or in a fully loaded car.

Over the seven years of Napa’s music spectacular, one of the larger changes to shape transportation to and from the Expo has been the rise of smartphone-driven ride-share services, for which Latitude 38 has set aside a drop-off area on downtown Third Street.

“I think more people are doing it because they’re used to Uber and Lyft now,” Lisa Pond of Latitude 38 said last week before the festival. “When BottleRock began (in 2013), ride sharing wasn’t so established yet. Now, no one wants to deal with the parking; no one wants to deal with the expense.”

At the festival itself, beverages have become one of the most visible symbols of conservation at BottleRock, both for which containers can be found and which kinds are nowhere to be seen.

Conspicuously absent from the Expo’s concession stands this weekend have been single-use plastic water bottles, with all water for sale packaged in more easily recyclable aluminum cans instead. Also scattered across the festival grounds are water stations for festival-goers to refill their reusable containers – including stainless-steel bottles sold on the premises for $10, a price Pond said was set as low as possible to reduce litter and waste further.

“We all know single-use plastic is killing the oceans, and getting rid of it is the right thing to do,” she said. “We’re trying to make it not even a thing, if we can help it.”

Refills also were the order of the day for BottleRock wine sellers, who distributed GoVino wine cups that festival guests were encouraged to keep and bring home as souvenirs.

Food vendors this year are using exclusively compostable containers, and the festival avoided the use of plastic straws, with paper ones available on request, said Pond. Trash collection at the Expo and on surrounding streets also includes sorting of recyclable and compostable materials.

BottleRock’s aftermath will be marked by an effort to reduce a different kind of waste – of food.

Waste Not Napa Valley, a group that coordinates food gleaning efforts, is supervising the collection of festival food from caterers on the premises into a single refrigerated storage area at the Expo. On Tuesday, local nonprofits including the Napa Food Bank, Boys & Girls Club, Upvalley farmworker centers and others will be invited to take what they need.

The difficulty restaurants and vendors have in predicting demand – which can turn on unseasonably cool or hot weather from year to year – all but assures leftover supplies that otherwise would wind up in landfills without a taker, according to David Busby, a member of Feeding It Forward, a partner in the BottleRock gleaning program.

“There are 40 or 50 food vendors, and they have to have all that stuff in (before the festival) and then try to predict what they will sell in three days,” he said last week. “Now they’re fine-tuning it, but you can’t predict the weather when you’ve made your menu two months ago. In my mind, there’s always going to be excess food that’s high-quality that most of these organizations cannot afford to go and purchase.”

Waste Not Napa Valley diverted more than 5,000 pounds of surplus food away from landfills after the 2018 BottleRock, with more than 10 groups picking up 4,310 pounds to feed Napa County residents, according to Busby. Six hundred pounds of supplies were fed to animals and 90 pounds were turned to compost.

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Public Safety Reporter

Howard Yune covers public safety for the Napa Valley Register. He has been a reporter and photographer for the Register since 2011, and previously wrote for the Marysville Appeal-Democrat, Anaheim Bulletin and Coos Bay (Oregon) World.

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