Image Credit: Jessica Burman

When you attend Hillside Music Festival at Guelph Lake, Ontario you enter an eco-village where sustainability and community are top priorities. This 36 year old grassroots organization opens up a world of possibilities and solutions that other events can strive towards. They set the bar high with thoughtful innovations that have earned them several awards over the years. It’s a paradigm shift and hopefully a glimpse into the future of all music festivals.

Here are some of the highlights of how Hillside operates a zero-waste, eco-conscious concert experience. 


01: Seed Swap

Hillside offers a seed swap where you can bring seeds from your garden and exchange them for something different. It's an amazing way to build your garden’s biological diversity.


02: Bike Lot

Hillside is located about 10 km from the nearest town but it seems that biking is the preferred method of transportation for many people. This bike lot offers a secure place to store your ride during the festival.


03: Independent Food Vendors

You won’t see a chain anywhere at this festival. The food vendors are all independent businesses carefully vetted by the organizers. You can get some seriously gourmet grub here, from organic ice cream to a fresh oyster bar. Hillside is a foodies’ paradise.


04: Zero-Waste Dining

This part is mind-blowing. All the food vendors are supplied with reusable plates, cups, and cutlery to serve their food on which are then washed by volunteers. No paper plates, plastic cups, forks etc. Food vendors are also not allowed to sell bottled water.


05: Trash Turnaround Areas

These are scattered around the island to handle trash. There is a bin for compost, dirty dishes to be washed, recyclables (paper, plastic, cans), and landfill (usually empty). People are diligent about keeping the island clean and their trash sorted. All the bins are carted away on a trike.


06: Water Refill Station

BYOB as in bottle. The City of Guelph sends a truck full of their great-tasting tap water for people to fill up their own reusable water bottles for free. There are no single-use plastic water bottles anywhere and it’s glorious.


07: Eco Merch

The Hillside wristband is made out of cloth instead of plastic and the reusable beer and wine cups are made from stainless steel.


08: Zero Waste Drinking

The beer is on tap and sourced from local microbreweries. The wine is from Ontario. To purchase a cold one, you must have your own Hillside reusable cup, which are sold at cost for $6.


09: Indigenous Circle

The area hosts story-telling, music, dancing, workshops and ceremonies.


10: Solar-Powered Charging Stations

You have to keep your phone charged at a festival. What if the performer asks for crowd flashlight action? Hillside has you covered with several charging stations powered by solar panels. It does a great job charging your phone quickly and there are quite a few outlets available.

Jessica Burman is the founder and owner of organic skin care line Cocoon Apothecary. She likes getting down to the bottom of things and exposing toxins lurking in every day products, and blogs for A\J about how everyday consumer choices can effect your health and the state of the planet. She is passionate about ditching synthetic chemicals in favor of simple, time-tested alternatives. She lives in Kitchener and is a mom to two youngs girls and too many pets. 

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