In early July, after Incubus played their last note and the sold-out crowd of concertgoers straggled off into the night, the Santa Barbara Bowl continued to bustle with activity. That’s when volunteers set about sorting through the evening’s trash, separating food waste, plastics, paper, and other recyclables from the night’s dump-able garbage heaps.
The effort is part of an environmental initiative to make the Bowl one of the “greenest” music venues in the nation. To the program creators, Bowl Marketing Coordinator Eric Shiflett and boardmember Graham Farrar, that means getting nightly landfill waste down to one or two bags, with all other trash being recycled, reused, or composted. Currently, about 30 percent of the refuse from each show goes to landfills; their goal is to produce only 1 percent of landfill waste.
To achieve this, the Bowl has teamed up with the Community Environmental Council (cecsb.org), which has helped to implement a volunteer-staffed Green Team. The team spends the majority of the event directing concertgoers where to put their waste, followed then by a post-show sort of all garbage cans to make certain items are tossed accordingly. A glamorous job it isn’t. In addition to separating half-eaten hot dogs and pretzels from used plastic cups, on the night I was there a volunteer found a ketchup-stained, beer-soaked sweater that was truly disgusting. In exchange, though, volunteers get to take in a solid chunk of a Bowl show for free-not to mention earning a few brownie points for helping out Mother Earth.
Landfill reduction isn’t the only eco-change being instituted-a bicycle valet system has been set up to help encourage show-goers to ditch their cars. Debuting at the July Incubus/Duke Spirit show, the bike parking was an immediate hit. Folks who pedal to the venue can check in their bikes with the volunteers-from the S.B. Bicycle Coalition, Bici Centro, and the Goleta Valley Cycling Club-where it is tagged and then kept in a gated area until you are ready to retrieve it. It’s like a coat check for two-wheelers-and it’s free. You don’t even need to bring a lock.
The number of bikes processed by the valets since that inaugural night has continued to grow with each concert. “Our top show to date has been 65 bikes,” said Bici Centro’s Ed France. He’s sure the numbers will increase, however, as word gets out about the service. “Our group has been preparing for the eventual flow of 200-300 bikes a show,” he continued. “The S.B. Bowl has purchased new, more permanent bike parking racks. We’ve also been getting our system more standardized for each show. We’ll all be ready for when everyone knows the VIP service is available.”
By Paul Wellman