When the bass hits just right, the body begins to sway. A fervent build and energetic claps send the feet into hyperdrive. Bring a good melody into the mix, and it is nearly impossible to resist the urge to move in tandem with the beat … when the environment allows, of course.
“I was at this large festival in Spain and I just couldn’t enjoy dancing – the core joy of being there,” says Co-Founder of Bye Bye Plastic Foundation, Camille Guitteau, M.D. “I couldn’t get it started because I was stepping upon this pile of plastic. I wanted to cry just thinking about this. That was the one moment when I realized, okay, we can change this, and it’s going to make such a huge impact.”
Anyone who has attended an event at a packed nightclub, or an outdoor music event can relate to Guitteau’s unpleasant memory. Get a crowd of humans together, and the trash problem is real. Sadly, those issues do not end when the clean-up crews arrive after the encore either.
According to the popular industry blog EDM.com, a Coachella-sized music festival (which takes place across two weekends and sees more than 250,000 attendees enter its gates) produces an average of 106 tons of waste per event day. A massive amount of that bulk comes in the form of single use plastics – drinking cups, water bottles, straws, cutlery, etc. – which all too often end up in landfills where they sit forever.
Bye Bye Plastic Foundation wants to change that. The Netherlands-based, sustainability-focused nonprofit organization was launched in January 2020 by Guitteau and Vivie-Ann Bakos, a renowned electronic music producer better known as BLOND:ISH. The two linked up through an online community called shesaid.so, which represents women and gender minorities who work in music. They quickly realized they had a shared aspiration: to eliminate single use plastics from the music industry.
“This whole circular model starts with the DJs,” says Bakos, who spends sunny days and late nights behind the decks. “They have the power of influence, and their voices trickle down to activate all the different actors within this industry.” In other words, the performers are best poised to be catalysts for lasting change.
To stay on target and “turn activism into actionism” (as Bakos puts it), Bye Bye Plastic Foundation follows a set of guidelines based on international standards upheld by trusted institutions such as the United Nations and the Stockholm Resilience Center.
One of Bye Bye Plastic’s first initiatives came in the form of an “Eco-Rider,” which they have shaped for mass use by artists who wish to participate in the plastic-free movement. By adopting this tool, performers pledge a commitment to request their hosting venues and events remove single use plastics from the DJ booth. For example, artists may choose to swap standard water bottles for items like boxed waters, which feature biodegradable packaging. It is a simple modification that doesn’t require a huge financial commitment from party promoters or venue owners.
More than 1,500 artists have adopted the Eco-Rider so far, including influential techno names like Adam Beyer, ANNA, and Eats Everything. For artists who are already tapped into environmental activism, taking this step is a no-brainer.
“The Eco-Rider is a straightforward way for artists to get involved in climate action,” says Eli Goldstein, a New York-based DJ and producer who performs with the duo Soul Clap, as well as solo under the moniker Bamboozle. “It’s a powerful way to use our collective power as creators to influence change in the industry and also provides an opportunity to educate our communities about why getting rid of single use plastics is so important.”
With extra time near home afforded by the pandemic, Goldstein recently decided to follow his dream of pursuing a master’s degree in Climate Science and Policy, so Bye Bye Plastic’s ethos aligns with values he already holds near and dear. He is also a living example of how respected artists can help shape the messages that permeate nightlife spaces and live on through festival culture.
The story has already begun to shift in a positive direction. The Foundation recently saw their impact reach beyond backstage green rooms and onto the dance floor when a Florida-based events space known as Sanctuary began serving cocktails in reusable metal cups, a move made in consultation with Bye Bye Plastic.
Though live events were relatively scarce in the states in 2020 due to COVID-19, this did not stop Bakos from activating partners and fans (who she lovingly refers to as “eco warriors”) in the virtual realm. BLOND:ISH’s ABRATV channel on the Twitch platform has more than 59,000 followers and has become a global sounding board for the activist and her mission. Using the hashtag #PlasticFreeParty, the top-knot sporting “tech-house magician” has encouraged viewers to be more conscious, even when watching streams or interacting in VR spaces at home.
“Virtual Reality is a space where you can gamify and incentivize sustainability and green actions,” Guitteau elaborates. “It’s a place to build awareness. Eventually, everyone will become used to the idea of not throwing their rubbish on the dance floor. There will be no question as to whether [this behavior] is something we want at our physical events anymore.”
BLOND:ISH and her partner, Liana Hillison, have spent much of the last year bolstering the ABRACADABRA brand which touts itself as a portal for “music, magic, self-love and sustainability.” Through their efforts, two virtual music festivals with philanthropic goals – ABRAFest and ABRACADRA New Years – were born.
“We used ABRAFest to push initiatives through,” Bakos explains. “We collaborated with Parley for the Oceans and Lonely Whale and curated a lot of content around sustainability – round tables, workshops, panels. We want to become this hub and safe space for the music industry, so if you want answers for sustainability, you come to us.”
The word is certainly out. A partnership with Masks for Music was another triumph for Bye Bye Plastic, who last year helped the company produce eco-friendly packaging for their masks and shipping materials. The program became an important way to promote mask-wearing during the pandemic, while also supporting artists and venues who were unable to draw performance revenue during the global health crisis.
“2020 was amazing because I met people in sustainability that I wouldn’t have if I were touring,” Bakos shares optimistically. “There’s amazing cross pollination happening.”
Now that vaccinations are well underway and events are slowly making their resurgence, Bye Bye Plastic has a big opportunity to reinforce the important lessons they’ve learned and activate the partners they’ve amassed since their launch. Next on their agenda is a project called Stage Positive.
“We’re creating a mentorship program that is crafted to empower the artist community. It really leads them through a track of understanding how they can tune their voice and their artistic work to the climate debate,” Guitteau explains. Their opinions and willingness to disperse knowledge will only become more important as climate change issues become more urgent.
Bakos is the perfect figurehead for this program, as she never hesitates to speak her mind, even when the subject matter skews political. She has toured extensively throughout her career and says she can feel how out of balance the planet is due to human activity. “I’ve traveled the world, experienced culture and biodiversity, and I see it disappearing,” she says in a serious tone. “I really feel that I can make a change in the music industry, this is my passion and it’s not going anywhere.”
In the meantime, Bakos and Guitteau will continue to educate themselves and those around them. After pursuing a course together in Amsterdam, the two became certified Greener Festival Assessors where they learned how to measure the impact of events and recognize those that have shown an exceptional commitment to sustainability and other eco-friendly initiatives. Bye Bye Plastic Foundation is also an implementation partner for Oceanic Global, an organization that is similarly focused on encouraging people to live out “plastic-free journeys.” By sharing their experiences, Bakos and Guitteau hope to stand out as subject matter experts and position themselves as go-to resources for the international music community.
Artists were low hanging fruit who helped jumpstart Bye Bye Plastic’s action plan, and festivals and party organizers are next on the list.
“We want to be here for everyone because everyone has their part to play,” Guitteau reiterates. “And promoters have a huge opportunity to have a real measurable impact on the plastic consumption at their events, and an opportunity to change the narrative for so many people.”
And when they do, we will finally be able to dance wild and free, without worrisome clutter beneath our toes – the very way nature intended.
To learn more about how to adopt a plastic-free lifestyle, or to partner with Bye Bye Plastic Foundation visit www.byebyeplastic.life
Photo Credits: Sian Kaan; Bye Bye Plastic Foundation; Vonecia Carswell/Unsplash; Globelet Reusable/Unsplash; Yvette De Wit/Unsplash
Last modified: April 20, 2021