The Greening of the Bowl

Composting, Bicycle Valet, and Goats Lower the Eco-Print of the Venue

Bike-riding concert-goers simply drop off their bike without worry locking up or securing bags, bells and lights
Paul Wellman

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.

Robert Rainwater brings a beach cruiser up to the secured bike parking area.
Paul Wellman

To achieve this, the Bowl has teamed up with the Community Environmental Council (, 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.”

Paul Wellman

Another part of the Bowl’s ongoing green-ification are the goats. Unruly brush covers a fair amount of the Bowl’s 17 acres and can be difficult to abate due to the rocky terrain. Not for goats, however. Recently, the Bowl contracted with Brush Goats 4 Hire, which brings its rented plant-eaters to the property and lets them loose to feast. In addition to decreasing brush fire danger, the goats naturally aerate the soil with their cloven hooves and fertilize it with their droppings.

With only a few months behind them, efforts at greening the Bowl clearly are progressing nicely. “[It’s] slow but steady forward movement,” said Shiflett. “The goal remains the same-to be a leader in the community and the industry by becoming increasingly eco-friendly and minimizing our waste and use.”

To this end, there are other plans being put into action. “We are preparing to go through the Santa Barbara County Green Business certification, which we are excited about,” said Shiflett. “I am continuing to try to implement a ride-sharing program with Zimride. I am hoping to launch those projects in early October.”

Other ideas are being bounced around as well, such as expanding the number of receptacles into the seated area of the Bowl. “What I’d like to see is more of the food scrap and recycle bins [in that area],” said Farrar. He’s also looking toward the future, with hopes of replacing the gas-powered buses that currently shuttle folks up and down the hill with a less toxic mode of transportation.

But in the meantime, he’d like to see eco-consciousness become the standard way of operation at the Bowl. Considering the successes already achieved, and plans to continue the program in the 2010 season, the prospect looks good thus far.


The Santa Barbara Bowl’s greening efforts continue to rely on volunteers. For info on becoming part of the venue’s Green Team, call Eric Shiflett at 962-7411 x14 or email To volunteer for future bicycle valets, contact Ed France at 252-9064 or email


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