Bonnaroo’s Eco-Activism

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The founders of Tennessee-based Bonnaroo were committed to making the healthiest and most sustainable choices for the festival, and it shows. It was the first major festival to require vendors to use compostable serving ware, to install a permanent solar array on the grounds, and to compost everything on-site, closing the loop on waste produced. Their sustainability practices have expanded beyond environmentally-friendly policies to festival-goer-friendly ones as well, offering everything from yoga classes and a 5K run to options for healthy eating.

Understanding that festivals can be extremely messy and wanting to lessen their impact on the environment, Bonnaroo took action and formed their Clean Vibes team. Clean Vibes ensures that all waste generated is sorted into the correct waste stream. Over Bonnaroo’s 17 year life, Clean Vibes has managed to divert an average of 50% of the festival’s waste from the landfill.

Recognizing that their work had the potential to reach a larger audience, Bonnaroo has partnered for the last seven years with We Are Neutral, an organization dedicated to offsetting carbon emissions. As a partnership, they have worked with low-income communities around Manchester, Tennessee by providing free energy retrofits and education to families in order to help lower the cost of their utilities. We Are Neutral has built a strong community of volunteers and supporters, and brought hope to those most economically vulnerable.

Once on-site at the festival, We Are Neutral works with and educates patrons to bridge the gap between the organization’s community work and individual’s carbon footprints at home. Carbon offsets aren’t an easy thing to explain, and it’s difficult to grasp what a “ton” of carbon emissions looks like, but it’s easy to explain how a higher carbon footprint can increase one’s utility bills. We Are Neutral explains to patrons how carbon reductions are created and encourages everyone passing through “Planet Roo” – the festival’s non-profit village – to offset the carbon footprint of their travel.

With this education from We Are Neutral, patrons are empowered to take responsibility for their carbon footprint, knowing that their offsets are actively working to mitigate the carbon emissions they create. In addition, they leave with an understanding of how to lower their carbon footprint at home, which makes Bonnaroo’s positive environmental impact year-round and world-wide.

Beyond their collaboration with We Are Neutral, Planet Roo unites affectionately-named “Bonnaroovians” and gives individuals tools to be more socially and environmentally responsible in their in day-to-day lives. Last year in Planet Roo:

  • Over 1,000 people meditated with the Art of Living.
  • 400 people took a class in the Bonnaroo Learning Garden.
  • Global Zero, a global initiative to eliminate nuclear weapons, gained 4,000 new members
  • 2,000 Bonnaroovians talked to the fine folks at Headcount to register to vote or learn more about upcoming elections.
  • Love, Hope, Strength took 503 swabs from patrons to get them on the bone marrow donor list.
  • National Resources Defense Council talked to 1,500 Bonnaroovians about ways to preserve our natural resources.
  • 68 senators were written to by 2062 patrons highlighting ONE’s campaign on behalf of the world’s poorest.
  • 2,500 Bonnaroovians signed Oxfam’s petition in support of reconsideration of the refugee ban, allowing more people fleeing their homes from violence to apply for asylum in the US.
  • Tipitina’s Foundation interacted with 2,000 people, over 400 of those wrote cards to their music students about why music matters.
  • We had 27 unique non-profits, 11 of which were new to Planet Roo, enhancing the area with new energy, spirit, and purpose.
  • 18 non-profits plan to collaborate with other non-profits they met on-site, furthering the festival’s goal for Planet Roo to become an incubator for collaboration and come up with even more ways to make the world a better place for everyone.


As Bonnaroo enters its 17th year of entertainment and activism, their focus on sustainability continues to develop. Learn more about Bonnaroo and their mission at