Going Green at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion - The Birthplace of Country Music
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Going Green at Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion

Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion is not only a festival filled with great music, good friends, tasty food, fun events and activities, and unique shopping opportunities from downtown merchants and vendors – it is also a festival that is working hard to be green!

The environment is one of the top concerns and issues for many people around the world, and Bristol Rhythm is always looking for ways to protect our downtown environment and do our part to minimize the effect we are having on Mother Earth. But unlike most music festivals, being green is a bit more of a challenge for us since we host our event in a downtown filled with shops, businesses, residents, restaurants, and bars. Being in the middle of a field – like FloydFest, MerleFest, or Bonnaroo, for instance – gives festival organizers a bit more control over their green environment!

Still, since our festival’s Green Team first came together several years ago, we’ve accomplished a lot on the green front, including huge recycling efforts, implementing various green initiatives, and taking part in green advocacy and education opportunities within the community. Here are just a few – along with ways that you can be a GREEN HERO with us!

Meet the Green Team!

First things first – you need to get to know our very own hometown green heroes, the Bristol Rhythm Green Team! The Green Team Committee, made up of dedicated and passionate volunteers, meets every month before Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion to discuss and plan the green initiatives we want to introduce to the event. We also join in a variety of advocacy events throughout the year such as Sustain Abingdon’s Earth Day event and Keep Bristol Beautiful’s clean-up days, and we share expertise and resources with others in our community and downtown who want to be greener.

At the festival, the Green Team committee members, along with a large volunteer corps, pick up recycling (paper, plastic, and aluminum) from the designated recycle stations throughout the festival weekend, help our vendors and merchants to recycle cardboard and dispose of cooking oil and waste water responsibly, and set out a variety of green guidelines for the festival food and craft vendors, such as using compostable food storage and flatware, supplying recyclable drinkware, and using recyclable plastic bags or paper bags.

We are lucky to have such a great – and fun – committee, and we are really grateful to all the volunteers who sign up to join us on the Bristol Rhythm Green Team each year. We set ourselves apart from the other festival volunteers with our quirky volunteer t-shirts, supported and printed by KS Promotions. Each year we get festivalgoers asking us where they can buy one of our cool shirts – the only way to get one is to volunteer with us; we still have shifts available for Bristol Rhythm 2019 so go online and join us!

Left and right: Green Team volunteers at festivals past posing with their unique volunteer t-shirts. Center: Green Team committee members helping a young girl make a craft out of small plastic bottles.
Green Team committee members and volunteers at the festival (left and right) – with different shirts over the years – and helping kids make “recycled crafts” at a Birthplace of Country Music Museum Family Fun Day. © Birthplace of Country Music; photographer: Billie Wheeler (center)

REDUCE and REUSE: Reusable stainless steel cups in the draft beer gardens!

This year, instead of plastic cups in the Bristol Rhythm beer gardens, you will need to purchase a stainless steel cup to use during the festival – these cups are only $5! And then don’t forget to hold onto this cup and then reuse it for all your beer garden drinks throughout the festival weekend. We’ll provide a rinsing station at each draft beer garden so you can swill out your cup if needed, but remember not to use too much water! This year we will only allow use of our stainless steel cups in the festival beer gardens, but we plan to open up to festivarians using stainless cups from other festivals in the future.

It is common these days for music festivals and other community events to only offer reusable cups where they sell beverages (check out Bonnaroo’s sustainability efforts – an inspiration!), and this new initiative will cut down considerably on BRRR’s plastic waste, especially important as plastic recycling gets more and more difficult. Even better: the cups are a great collectible souvenir! We are grateful to Keen Promotions for their support of this new initiative.

The stainless steel cup with the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion logo in orange on its front.
The Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion 2019 reusable cup! © Birthplace of Country Music

REDUCE and REUSE: Water refill stations!

Last year, with the help of Bank of Marion and the City of Bristol, Tennessee, we added two water stations to the event footprint where festivalgoers can fill reusable water bottles – or your new stainless steel BRRR cup this year! These water refill stations present another great opportunity to reduce the number of plastic water bottles sold over festival weekend. The stations can be found near the corner of 5th and State Streets, and near the Country Music Mural Stage.

A festivalgoer filling up her bottle at a water refilling station.
One of the water filling stations at BRRR 2018. It proved very popular with festivalgoers, being constantly used and leading to a lot of positive feedback. © Birthplace of Country Music

REUSE: Tote bags!

I have a million tote bags (no exaggeration!), and I love every single one of them. I use them all the time – for my grocery and other shopping; for extra packing bags when on a trip; for carrying snacks on car journeys, or just to the office (I ALWAYS need snacks!); for storage; as a way to wrap birthday and Christmas presents; and as a substitute handbag. Plastic bags are everywhere, and they are a HUGE environmental problem globally. So do your part, and bring your own reusable bags to carry home all your festival treasures and bargains. A folded-up bag in your pocket, purse, or backpack takes up no room and adds no weight – just do it!

The metal statue of Dale, always on display at festival, wearing a Green Team canvas tote bag with one of the t-shirt designs about being a green hero.
The festival’s unofficial mascot “Dale” carrying a Green Team-themed canvas tote bag. © Birthplace of Country Music

RECYCLE: Know what you can recycle and do so responsibly!

I’ve recycled for years, often getting the actual trash pick-up at my home down to half a trash bag or less each week. And over the years of the festival, the Green Team has literally recycled TONS of plastic, paper, cardboard, glass, and aluminum. However, there have been a lot of stories in the local and national news lately about the many challenges to recycling – especially what is and is not recyclable on the plastic front – and we’ve certainly seen the effects of those issues here in the Tri-Cities.

Every year, the Green Team picks up cardboard from the downtown merchants and the food and craft vendors for recycling. And we also set out labeled recycle stations for paper, aluminum, and plastic throughout the Bristol Rhythm footprint for festivalgoers. This year, unfortunately, only plastic types #1 and #2 can be recycled so please look out for these symbols before placing a plastic item in one of our stations – the numbers can usually be found on the bottom of the item. Any contamination by other plastic type numbers will mean ALL the plastic goes straight to the landfill instead – and we definitely want to avoid that!

Left: Two Green Team volunteers taking a selfie in front of a large pile of festival recycling on the back of a golf cart. Right: The 7 triangular recycle symbols found on plastics.
Green Team volunteers ready to transport a huge pile of recycling, and the usual plastics recycling numbers. © Birthplace of Country Music (left)

Plastic Island!

This year the festival’s Atmosphere Committee is adding one more thing to all of the art, signage, and décor that they create each year to make Bristol Rhythm extra special – and beautiful! This side project is called Plastic Island, a reused materials art piece that will be on display in the old fountain basin in front of WCYB (the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard side of the building) and which is meant to help raise awareness about environmental challenges and the green cause. Using discarded plastic – both unrecyclable and recyclable – the committee is creating a whole host of sea creatures, island features, ocean waves, and more to highlight the danger of plastics in our oceans – inspired, if that is the right word, by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Sadly, the plastic they collected is just the tip of the iceberg, which barely reflects the amount of plastic produced and used globally. Be sure and check out Plastic Island when you are enjoying the festival and remember the damage done from thrown-out plastic as you find ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle in your own life!

The left and center photographs show some of the craft reused materials for Plastic Island, including fish, octupi, whales, plants, and more made out of plastic bottles and containers. The right image is of floating marine debris made of trash, plastics, fishing nets, and other items.
While the reused materials crafts for Plastic Island are cute and beautiful, remember that too many of these materials wind up in our oceans. © Birthplace of Country Music (left and center); NOAA


Not only is the Bristol Rhythm & Roots Reunion Green Team supported by various businesses, but we also get a lot of in-kind support from our community partners – Revolution Curbside Recycling, Keep Bristol Beautiful, and Wise Recycling this year, several others over previous years. We couldn’t do the work we do each festival without that support and help. But most of all, we couldn’t be green at Bristol Rhythm without you – so be a GREEN HERO!

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