Photo: Green festivals powered on poop!

(Credit: publicenergy via Flickr)

Community festivals build connectedness and can leave neighbourhoods with a vibrant sense of shared values and experiences critical to our well-being.

But they can also leave neighbourhoods with a fair amount of trash.

Green your festival

Taking responsibility at the individual level is the first step. Bringing your own refillable water bottle and supporting vendors who use compostable plates are among the many ways you can shrink your summer festival footprint.

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But that refillable water bottle won't go far without water stations.

So speak up. Encourage organizers to take the lead in creating a community that exemplifies the healthy future we envision.

In my healthy future, community festivals are powered by poop. Cow poop, to be precise.

Those big stage speakers and food truck generators have to run on something. Solar is one great option. But Car Free Day organizers across Vancouver chose cow poop.

Anaerobic digesters

Bacteria in anaerobic digesters turn organic material (like poop) into biogas (methane), which can be turned into electricity. The idea dates back to the 10th century BC! Anaerobic digesters were used to power street lights in England in the late 1800s.

Today, municipal, private and agricultural sectors are using the technology to produce reliable, renewable energy that decreases emissions and turns waste into a usable byproduct.

Most summer festivals don't have cow poop on hand. But individuals, businesses and events can purchase poop-power offsets from organizations like the B.C. non-profit, Cow Power. They suggest producing as much energy as possible on-site using solar or other renewable sources, then offsetting the rest.

Although the business and environmental case for anaerobic digestion is strong, the setup requires considerable investment and in B.C. — like in many places — it takes about seven years to break even. Offset organizations like Cow Power bridge the gap and provide funding to help more farmers with start up.

We all benefit from an investment in renewable technologies, so it seems fitting that we crowd-source the transition!

Beyond poop

Of course, more than manure can create this kind of energy — compost is a great source — and it's not just farmers who have a role to play. Sports stadiums, for example, are ideally situated to turn food waste into energy.

If we could light up London with poop in the 1800s, imagine what we could do today. And since I'm officially radically Canadian, I say let's start with Canada Day!

Tovah Paglaro

P.S. In keeping with the poop-is-cool theme — comment for a chance to win a copy of "The Origin of Feces: What Excrement Tells Us About Evolution, Ecology, and a Sustainable Society?" by David Waltner-Toews.

June 26, 2013

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