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Rock the Green 2012

With a goal of near zero waste, Rock the Green was a one of a kind music festival.   From composting food scraps, to providing free on-site water instead of selling bottles, the festival aimed to reduce per capita waste to less than one ounce.

But the larger goal was to make sustainability accessible.

"You don't need to wear Birkenstocks and patchouli down here.  We celebrate all shades of green from light to dark," said Lindsay Stevens Gardner, founder and executive director of Rock the Green.

The one-day festival wrapped up late Saturday, but the impact, Gardner hopes, will linger.  Each environmentally friendly sponsors was required to include an "educational component" alongside their products.  Even the food options were organic and locally sourced.

At first glance, the festival itself looked like any other outdoor concert in Milwaukee.  Concert goers carried around cups of beer, stood in line to buy official merchandise and nibbled on roasted corn.  But unlike other concerts, those beer cups were compostable and actually made it into the recycling bin.  The official t-shirts were donated by Goodwill, and the corn was from a Wisconsin farm.

"It's all about sustainability here, and everyone embraces that mission.  It's really exciting to see," Gardner said.

Performers included Third Eye Blind, Switchfoot, Metric, Imagine Dragons, Atlas Genius, and Morning Parade.  There was also a separate local music stage, which was powered solely by teams of volunteer bicyclists.

Last year, Gardner says Rock the Green generated 440 pounds of trash, which calculates to about one ounce for every person in attendance. That's compared to the expected 3.7 tons that a traditional festival of the same size would produce.


Final figures for this year's net waste are expected to be released this week.  Check back for updates.