IT’S not easy being green. Just ask Amie Green, Head of Garbology at the Woodford Folk Festival. Amusing aptronym’s aside (for those, like me, who only learned a few years ago that an aptronym is when someone’s name pertains to their job), garbage is serious business. Amie, 32, runs Green Chief and works with a number of different festivals including the Island Vibes, Rainbow Serpent and Festival of the Sun, among others. But Woodford, which is staged every year in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland between Christmas and New Year, stands out due to its cultural impact on patrons and spreading the message of environmental sustainability.
Rubbish! I hear you scoff. Bin there, done that…So what’s so fascinating about garbage? Well, plenty, according to Amie who has been involved with the festival since 2010 and is in charge of seven departments who work together to keep this 200 hectare site clean. “The biggest part of my job is making sure we reuse and recycle all that is bought onto the festival site, so it’s the nuts and bolts of picking up litter, separating cardboard and plastics and then managing an area called The Compost Lounge,” she says.
“Mapping where our bins are located in itself is quite interesting and getting into the psychology of littering and the flow of people in what is essentially a mini city for a week.
“I’m primarily a people person because when you have to motivate nearly 100 volunteers on a daily basis over nearly a month, especially in a department that is usually devoid of glamour, my passion really has to shine through.”
So, what kinds of people litter? “If you’ve got litter on the ground it becomes a kind of social norm and then you think it’s OK to litter. Some people think if they are going to a festival and paying $500 for a ticket they give away some kind of responsibility as a human. They expect someone to clean up after them,” Amie says.
And sometimes they leave the strangest things. Earlier this year at another festival, Amie found two giant squid which had been left in discarded sleeping bags.
“My job just gets bigger towards the end of the festival, when people are leaving their campsites behind and suddenly these cheap camping chairs are being discarded,” Amie says.
“We’ve found whole campsites with tents, sleeping bags and even beer left behind. It can be demoralizing on these days to see what an impact our disposable culture has had on people’s values. People think they are leaving behind something that can be donated, but while we recycle what we can, much of it can’t be given away as it’s been damaged or poorly made.
“But for every discarded tent, I can see that four campsites around have taken the time to pick up glitter, cigarette butts and generally fluff the place as they found it. That keeps me going.”
This year, Amie will be pushing a “Love your tent, love your campsite” message designed at encouraging people to buy quality camp gear which lasts, and to continue their good practices of recycling right through to when they are leaving the Woodford site. To assist with this, the festival will be providing larger recycling bins.
If you think keeping a large chunk of Australian bush clean is easy, consider this: around 110,000 people flow through this site in a week, and many, like me, camp for that entire time. That’s a lot of garbage, all of it which must be removed from the site by the end of the festival. But Woodford embraces this through bars which are themed with recycled materials, The Greenhouse tent devoted solely to talks on the environment and by showcasing the natural beauty of the site itself – rolling hills, bush and outdoor ampitheatres.
A Garbologist for five years, Amie says many people don’t think about what has to happen outside of the actual event, for it to run smoothly. For the first time this year at Woodford, there will also be a new compost education scheme in which festival patrons will be educated about the fact the bowls, plates and cutlery from which they dine at festival food outlets, can be composted.
“I have to admit it was one of those kinds of jobs you just fall into. I had studied Entertainment Industry Management to an honours level a couple of years previously and it was a very broad course that was a business degree relating to the entertainment and music industries specifically,” she says.
“After speaking at a few industry conferences on behalf of A Greener Festival, I was asked a pilot project for a 10,000 people festival called Rainbow Serpent. They wanted to increase their recycling rate. So I trained some volunteers to stand at bins and educate patrons about what goes where. The volunteers loved it, they dressed up as ninjas and jumped out at people as an icebreaker before letting them know that their cup was compostable, for instance.
“Other festivals heard about me and my business and wanted to same thing for their festival. It’s just grown organically from there.”
A festival which puts the lid on litter in the bid to create a greener, leaner world. What’s not to love?