Forecastle, For the Planet

By: Tom Tappel – Staff Writer

This summer, Louisville’s Forecastle Festival continued its 13-year quest to be an event that is more than a music festival. Since 2003, Forecastle has sought to go beyond just music and expand into the territory of community engagement and activism. The music hasn’t taken a backseat by any means; this past year offered stunning shows by The Avett Brothers, Alabama Shakes, Moon Taxi and Big Gigantic, while years past have featured the likes of Cage the Elephant, Houndmouth, Spoon, even Devo. The music has always been the forefront of the festival’s image; however, year after year for over a decade, the engagement with local artists and the focus on sustainability and activism have grown.

The biggest issue confronting the festival is a matter of power. Powering all of the guitar solos and light shows requires tens of thousands of kilowatt-hours over the course of the weekend. Starting last year, in an effort to clean up their act, Forecastle partnered with Arcadia Power, a provider of clean energy. Forecastle agreed that for all the power they used during the festival, they would work with Arcadia Power to guarantee the same amount of power would be produced by a renewable source and put on the grid. Aside from the main stages’ power supplies, this year Forecastle featured Sierra Nevada’s Solar Trailer that uses Louisville’s sweltering summer sun to keep beverages cold all day without using more energy.

Aside from solar cooled beers, festival goers need water to keep cool  from the opening acts to the closers. Focused on reducing the use of single-use plastic water bottles, Forecastle teamed up with REVERB’s and Nalgene’s #RockNRefill program. This program looks to get more reusable water bottles to the festival patrons by selling Forecastle 2016 Nalgene’s for $15 (all proceeds benefit Forecastle’s litany of nonprofits) and by exclusively offering water at water stations throughout Riverside Park. By focusing on reusable bottles, the festival cuts down on over 800,000 single-use plastic bottles.

While cutting down on that many single-use plastic bottles is a feat worthy of note, some of those bottles will slip through the cracks. That’s where Recover Brands, Forecastle’s official merch provider, steps in. Recover Brands manufactures their apparel out of 100 percent recycled material. However, it isn’t just old shirts cut up and Frankenstein-ed together to make a new shirt. Recover makes their apparel from recycled cotton and recycled plastic — remember those plastic bottles? Recover uses eight of them when manufacturing their apparel.

Through all their efforts, Forecastle has provided clean energy to the grid, kept beers cold using the sun, pushed for reusable water bottles, and made their merch 100 percent recycled, but it’s hard to feel like a Festival is truly clean while the site is covered in empty cans and cigarette butts. Enter Clean Vibes. Clean Vibes’ job is handling all the waste management for the festival on Riverside Park– not a fun gig. That is, until you team up with PBR and make a trading post that offers rad merchandise in exchange for bags of cans and bottles or cigarette butts. In 2015, the trading post received more than 75 bags of recycling from Forecastlers in addition to diverting 70 percent of waste at the Festival away from landfills.

Forecastle’s dedication to sustainability goes beyond public relations or marketing ploys. For the last 13 years, those that run the festival have ensured that whatever they do, they adhere to the values they set forth, no matter the cost. Forecastle’s integrity throughout its history is something to be admired, but even more so it is something to be imitated.