OTTAWA FOLK FESTIVAL
TD FRIENDS OF THE ENVIRONMENT FOUNDATION GRANT
FINAL REPORT – MAY 2, 2010
I. PROJECT SUMMARY
Project title: Growing a Greener Festival
Project period: June – September 2009
Funding received: $6,200
The ultimate goal of our environmental programs is to encourage and inspire festival attendees
to make long-term changes after they leave the Ottawa Folk Festival. Building on our long-
standing efforts to protect the environment, our goals are:
1. To expand our reusable dish program to include cutlery
2. To promote local water use and eliminate the use of plastic water bottles
3. To promote composting and eliminate all landfill-bound waste generated by food
preparation and consumption
4. To collect and process recyclables
5. To incorporate renewable energy sources into the festival
6. To promote local food and support local food producers
7. To work with green printers
8. To promote and provide our existing environmental education workshops to others in the
For the 2009 annual festival, we carried out some level of activity in all major areas1; however,
we focused most of our effort on introducing new initiatives to advance the top three goals:
expanding our reusable dish program to include cutlery, promoting local water use and
eliminating plastic water bottles and initiating collection and composting of organic waste.
The green printing sponsor that OFF worked with in 2008 closed its operations in spring 2009; an alternative printer
was found that printed our materials on recycled paper, however, the 2009 printer was not equipped for green printing
II. PROJECT RESULTS
The 2009 Ottawa Folk Festival took place in Britannia Park from August 21 – 23. OFF is very
proud of our results for 2009 as part of our long-term journey towards putting on a sustainable
festival with the smallest ecological footprint possible. We have been building each year on our
reputation for not only delivering a great annual festival, but also for our environmental
The 2009 annual festival offered an incredible opportunity to educate and inspire the public
through engaging programs, promotions and activities. With a focus on the water initiative in
2009, festival-goers became more aware of their own consumption habits by watching in real
time a white board tally of the volume of drinking water consumed on-site and the equivalent in
plastic water bottles diverted from the landfill. Festival-goers benefited from having a concrete,
alternative to consuming bottled water on-site and they embraced it with open arms and huge
smiles!! This was a positive step in offering alternative sustainable choices and supporting
residents of Ottawa in taking small steps to change their consumption habits.
More than 10,000 visitors, volunteers, performers and artists were on site during the festival
weekend. They experienced first hand, and participated in, the environmentally and socially
responsible event management systems put in place by the OFF, in particular, the high visibility
of our water-bottle free initiative and reusable dish initiatives (see below).
OFF received excellent media coverage of the 2009 annual festival, including specific
commentary on our green initiatives. A sample of this coverage is included in our water report -
Many volunteers were involved directly in developing and implementing the various systems,
• 18 Green Team volunteers (setting up/maintaining recycling and water stations, cleaning
• 20 Envirodish Crew volunteers (recovering and washing plates and cutlery)
• 25 Hospitality Food Area volunteers (composting organic waste)
• 15 Info Booth volunteers (selling stainless steel water bottles)
• 12 Main stage and side stage hosts (reading key messages throughout the festival about
• 10 volunteers who participate on the OFF Board of Directors (assisted in securing
sponsors, developing communications and supporting the initiative)
All of the on-site food vendors (13 vendors, with multiple staff in each) were also active
participants in implementing the reusable dishes initiative.
In addition to the support provided by TD Friends of the Environment, OFF was successful in
building new partnerships and identifying new green sponsors, including:
• Ottawa Riverkeeper
• CUPE National
• CUPE 503
• The Council of Canadians
• The Water Store
• Life Without Plastics.
• Isolara Solar
PLASTIC WATER-BOTTLE FREE INITIATIVE
In the months leading up to the festival, staff, volunteers participating on the OFF Green Team
and partner organizations put many hours of work into ensuring that the OFF became the first
regional festival to become 100% plastic water-bottle and to actively promote City water as a
healthy, sustainable alternative to bottled water.
Hydration stations were provided at key points on the site where people could re-fill their water
bottles. The main hydration station consisted of a mobile water dispenser -- essentially, a large
stainless steel tank with five hoses and nozzles for re-filling water bottles. The tank was filled
continuously from a hose connected to one of the Ron Kolbus Centre’s exterior taps.
This mobile unit was designed and provided by the Water Store, a new Orillia-based company
interested in piloting their service at our festival. They also provided trained volunteers to refill
bottles as well as the large dispensers used at the four satellite hydration stations.
Thanks to donations from CUPE National and CUPE Local 503 – which represents the City’s
own water department employees – we were able to sell stainless-steel bottles to those who
didn’t bring their own. And, in collaboration with Ottawa Riverkeeper, we developed and
distributed a fact sheet outlining “10 Reasons to Say No To Bottled Water”. We actively
advertised our water-bottle-free initiative well in advance and, as a result, experienced
enthusiastic participation by attendees. Maude Barlowe, of the Council of Canadians, spoke
about the “say no to bottled water” campaign.
All partners promoted the OFF on their web sites and among their members, focusing on the
water-bottle free and green initiatives. Two partners actively participated on-site at the festival
talking with festival-goers about the water-bottle free initiative, distributing educational
information at satellite hydration stations, and assisting the Green Team in refilling and
dispensing City drinking water to festival-goers.
The most impressive part of the operation was the low-tech white board where we recorded
usage statistics all weekend. Festival-goers were very interested to see concrete results:
• By Sunday evening, 3,819 litres (or more than 1000 gallons) of water had been
• This means that the OFF successfully diverted the equivalent of 7,638 plastic bottles
from landfill sites.
Attachment one provides the statistics on drinking water usage tracked throughout the festival,
the partners who participated in making this possible, and a range of quotes about the success
of the event.
What We Learned/Next Steps
The figures from 2009 now provide us with a baseline from which to measure and
compare in future years, and a good model for tracking consumption and diversion of
waste through our other environmental initiatives.
For the upcoming festival, we need to identify a means of sustaining the water initiative.
We have learned that the Water Store charge for use of the hydration station in 2009
would be $5,000 (which could possibly be negotiated to a lower fee). With the recent
news that the City of Ottawa will not purchase its own mobile water stations for use by City
festivals and events, we will exploring options such as corporate sponsorship towards the
fee of the Water Store, or towards the purchase of a water station for use by our festival
(and potentially provided to other interested festivals and events).
The Green Team co-crew chief identified the need for additional volunteers or a separate
crew to take responsibility for the re-filling and staffing of the satellite hydration stations.
Supplies and equipment needed to allow smooth functioning include: large water
containers (ideally metal or inert plastic, for ease of cleaning and sanitizing), a water trolley
with pneumatic wheels to allow for transport of large water containers refilled with water,
professional cholorplast, reusable signs to increase visibility of the hydration stations,
ideally with a professional framed sign display that could be used for multiple purposes.
REUSABLE DISHES PROGRAM
In the late 1990s, we received a small grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation which allowed
us to purchase 500 reusable plates for use in our hospitality food area for performers and
volunteers. Right off the bat, we are able to eliminate close to 2500 disposable plates from the
landfill that would have been generated at our annual festival. We have also, for over 10 years
now, been using these reusable plates at our volunteer and other community events throughout
In 2006, we purchased over 3000 additional reusable, melamine plates and 1000 bowls. This
allowed us to extend our reusable plate program to our food vendor area, serving festival-goers
throughout the festival weekend. At that time, we also developed a new partnership with Isolara
Solar Power to provide a solar heater for washing the reusable dishes and cutlery.
We have not, as yet, done formal tracking of the number of dishes diverted from the landfill as a
result of this greatly expanded initiative. However, we know from experience that festival pass-
holders make multiple trips to the food vendor area throughout the weekend, and that many
single-day ticket-holders make at least one purchase from the area.
In 2009, the grant from TD Friends of the Environment helped us to take our reusable dishes
program one step further. We purchased 3000 sets of reusable cutlery for use in the hospitality
food area for artists and volunteers and for use in the food vendor area.
Based on 10,000 visits to the festival site in 2009, and knowing the actual number of meals
served to volunteers and artists, we conservatively estimate that at least:
• 11,400 disposable plates have been diverted each year since the 2007 annual festival
• 23,000 disposable forks, knives and spoons were diverted at the 2009 festival
Our reusable dishes and cutlery are currently stored throughout the year for use at the annual
festival. However, we have also begun to informally promote the use of these supplies by other
non-profit organizations and individuals hosting events in the community. This has included the
lending of supplies, transport, and, in some cases, the provision of volunteers to assist with
dishwashing and packaging of plates e.g., at MEC Paddlefest. In 2009/2010, there were a total
of six events that used our supplies.
What We Learned/Next Steps
This year, we plan to put in place a system to track use of reusable dishes, building on the
simple system used last year to track drinking water consumption. We also plan to
explore options for more formally promoting the use of our reusable dish supplies
throughout the year by individuals, organizations and other festivals (both locally and
regionally). This might include the creation of a simple “How-To” info sheet that can serve
a check-list to help users have a simple, worry-free experience of using the reusable
dishes at their events.
We will also investigate how to strengthen the capacity of the solar heating system
supplied by Isolara. It did not always supply enough energy to provide hot water for
dishwashing at all times, particularly in the evening.
Finally, the Envirodish Crew worked long, hard hours, and we simply need to ensure that
we have additional volunteers, and/or that we consider combining the Green Team and
the Envirodish Crew to provide variety and respite to hard-working dishwashers!
COMPOSTING AND ELIMINATING LANDFILL-BOUND ORGANIC WASTE
We took one step this year towards introducing composting of organic waste. Composting
stations were set up in our food preparation area for use by food prep volunteers. A simple
system was put in place whereby organic waste was collected in paper yard waste bags with
reinforced cardboard lining at the base. These bags of waste were transported by OFF
volunteers to a local farm, and added to their personal compost pile.
We intended to have an organic waste collection system in place for use by festival-goers in the
food vendor area and at key collection points throughout the festival grounds. While there was
a dish-scraping station set up at the dish drop-off table, the organizational capacity (both staff
and volunteer) to more fully put this new system in place was not possible, at the same time as
introducing the water initiative.
What We Learned/Next Steps
Given the City of Ottawa’s newly introduced Green Bin program, we have been informed
that our contract with Britannia Park will include an organic waste pick-up. With this in
mind, we have set a goal for the coming year to establish a system of efficient, easily
accessible, and well-signed recycling stations set-up at key points on the festival site that
will include organic waste collection.
We will explore how best to ensure that festival-goers understand and participate fully in
the system, including the use of more visible signage and potentially staffing the recycling
stations with volunteers to assist with dish-scraping. Additional receptacles will be
required to support the collection of organic waste, which was done using paper yard
waste bags in 2009.
We have not yet established a means for tracking the organic waste collected; however,
this might be done by tallying the number of receptacles filled and then estimating the
corresponding weight/volume of organic waste collected.
COMPOSTABLE BEER CUPS
Since 2007, we have used compostable beer cups that are made from a corn-based material.
All of our waste receptacles were fitted with a collection system for these compostable cups
(cupsuckers). Compostable cups collected were stored in biodegradable, clear garbage bags.
• With approximately $40,000 in beer sales throughout the festival, we estimate that at
least 6,600 non-compostable, plastic beer cups were diverted from the landfill in 2009.
There is some lack of corporate memory at this time; however, our understanding is that the
compostable cups were brought directly to the industrial waste disposal facility post-festival by
the festival artistic director.
What We Learned/Next Steps
This year, we are communicating early with the Ron Kolbus Centre staff and their waste
disposable and recycling company, Goulbourn Sanitation, to ensure that a clear system is
in place for transport and recycling of the compostable cups. We will also ensure that
there is better signage and more prominent messaging to encourage festival-goers to
dispose of their beer cups in the cup-suckers.
The Green Team co-crew chief reported that the festival site was extremely clean, well-
maintained and free of waste through the effort of a hard-working and dedicated volunteer crew.
Blue bin and garbage receptacles were set up and maintained at key points on the festival site,
for collection of glass/plastics, aluminum and unrefined paper products and other non-recyclable
waste. A cupsucker collection system for compostable cups was available to festival-goers at
In addition to this collection system, Green Team volunteers collected cardboard from vendors
and stored it for pick-up by the Ron Kolbus waste and recycling pick-up.
The TD Friends of the Environment representative observed that recycling stations were not
well-signed and visible to festival-goers, and that some recyclable products were being
disposed of in the garbage bins.
What We Learned/Next Steps
We will re-visit the logistics of the recycling stations, including: (1) exploring staffing the
recycling stations with volunteers to assist with dish-scraping and directing festival-goers
to appropriate disposal of recyclable products; (2) better signage for the various recycling
receptacles that clearly indicates what should be placed in each bin (suggestion is to have
printed up to 50 2x2 chloroplast signs that could be re-used; (3) build regular
announcements/reminders about the recycling stations and green initiatives into the key
messages delivered at workshop and main stage; (4) include clear recycling instructions in
the festival program, volunteer handbook and on the festival web site.
OTHER GREEN INITIATIVES
There were many interesting workshops that took place in the Enviro Tent, e.g. cob-house
building, as well as excellent programming through the Gardening initiative and even in the
musical programming (e.g., Mr. Something Something played a workshop powered by a bicycle-
run, people-powered generator).
What We Learned/Next Steps
Festival-goers were extremely enthusiastic about the environmental components of the
festival and were happy to participate when systems were visible, accessible and easy-to-
use. We are encouraged to be creative with future initiatives, and see much potential in
the following areas: Further incorporating renewable energy sources into the festival,
promoting local food and supporting local food producers, working with green printers and
reducing the amount of paper produced by the festival, and promoting and providing our
existing environmental education workshops to others in the local community.
The Ottawa Folk Festival was pleased to recognize the support of TD Friends of the
• Providing on-site visibility and signage at the 2009 festival
• Recognition in our festival program (distribution of 2500)
• Logo and link on Ottawa Folk Festival website during the festival period
• Recognition on stages throughout festival weekend
• Recognition on the OFF Ottawa Green Initiatives page of our website at
This year, we focused on tracking and publishing results from the water initiative. The included
writing up a Water Report, documenting the consumption of drinking water throughout the
festival and the equivalent diversion of plastic water bottles. This was sent out through the
networks of our partners, and posted on the website of the Council of Canadians in September
2009. In addition to the media reports already mentioned, the OFF sent out a news release in
the Spring of 2010. The news release re-announced the water statistics as part of an Earth Day
promotional announcement for an evening of acoustic music by candlelight, in partnership with
the Canadian Museum of Civilization. At that time, the OFF also created a Green Initiatives
page on our web site, highlighting our current initiatives and creating a link to the Water Report.
What We Learned/Next Steps
We see great potential for more extensive tracking of waste diversion, documenting the
systems we have in place and sharing them with not only other festivals, but other non-
profit and community groups who host events regularly. This will help promote more
sustainable festivals and events both locally and across the province. We do not have a
large capacity to undertake educational activities; however, we will identify key
opportunities and simple ways to share what we are learning.
We know that it is the people that make the difference, and we will continue to seek out
new Green Team volunteers, enthusiastic individuals, partners and sponsors to help us
develop and promote our green initiatives.
We continue to have a strong team of committed staff, volunteers and community partners who
are ready to strengthen and expand our green initiatives.
We would like to extend a sincere and heart-felt thank you to TD Friends of the Environment for
the invaluable advice and practical support provided to the Ottawa Folk Festival, and we hope to
work with you in the future.
ATTACHMENT 1 – OFF WATER REPORT
September 16, 2009
Ottawa Folk Festival: Went Unplugged and Unbottled!
Clean water is the foundation of the health and well being of every community. The Ottawa Folk
Festival the first Ottawa Festival to say no to plastic water bottles and yes to public water!
Without the expertise, dedication, and generous support of our water partners, this initiative
would certainly not have been possible. A heartfelt thank you to Ottawa Riverkeeper, CUPE,
CUPE 503, Council of Canadians, The Water Store, and Life Without Plastics. We did it, folks!
Figures from The Water Store Hydration Station
(*Note that all festival Hydration Stations were replenished from this station starting Saturday
Hydration Station Statistics
Date Gallons Litres Users Bottles saved
Aug.21 125 473 577 946
Aug.22 475 1798 2068 3596
Aug.23 409 1548 1850 3096
Total 1009 3819 4495 7638
“The festival's water-bottle ban was also considered a success. Stainless-steel bottles were
widely available, and close to 1,000 gallons of water were dispensed at the so-called hydration
stations. According to water-station attendants, more than 7,000 plastic bottles were diverted
from landfill sites.” - The Ottawa Citizen, Aug. 24 2009
http://www.canadians.org/media/water/2009/17-Apr-09.html - Council of Canadians, April 17
2009. (Also published in Ottawa Citizen Apr 20 2009. Link unable to be found)
“ I think OFF did a fantastic job with the water initiative and we were proud to be partners.
Everyone we spoke with was very supportive of the initiative and I believe it was a win-win for
everyone.” - Meredith Brown, Ottawa Riverkeeper Executive Director
“I just wanted to echo Meredith's statements about the water initiative - it went so well and
everyone loved the idea! Saving 9,000 plastic bottles is quite an accomplishment. I hope that
other festivals can use this as a case study for greening their own operations too. Thanks so
much for inviting us to be an environmental partner. We're thrilled to support such a positive
initiative - and of course, it helped us spread the word about Ottawa Riverkeeper too.” - Natasha
Wilson, Ottawa Riverkeeper Communications Coordinator
“What a great event! All the staff and I had a great time….Thank you for your vision of going
bottled water free!” – Paul Baker, The Water Store
Water Initiative Feedback from Festival-Goer Surveys
“Excellent idea! I really think banning the sale of bottled water is a very positive step”
“I hope every festival follows this”
“The refill stations are a fantastic idea. Not only does it keep the garbage down, but I found it
easier to stay well hydrated with so much easily accessible water”
“Great idea. Feels good to be a part of that”
Excerpts from 2009 Ottawa Folk Festival program guide:
In an effort to address water issues from multiple angles, we have partnered with the Ottawa
Riverkeeper, Council of Canadians, CUPE, and CUPE 503 in a celebration of Ottawa public tap
water. We are promoting a plastic water bottle free event and providing Hydration Stations and
roving water crews to ensure you keep hydrated and that your bottles stay full. Why would we
do such a thing?:
• Plastic water bottles are made from petroleum, a non-renewable resource.
• 90% of water bottles are never recycled and end up in landfills where they take
thousands of years to degrade.
• Community watersheds in many communities (including our own) are facing many
pressures from tourism, development, mining and other activities. This can only be
addressed through cooperation and focus on the value of local drinking water.
• Every year over $100 Billion Dollars is spent on bottled water worldwide. The United
Nations estimates that if they had just 1/5 of that money for one year they could cut in
HALF the number of people without clean water.
• The Ministry of the Environment (MOE) has rated the City of Ottawa’s drinking water as
one of the safest in the world. Our water is clean…Drink up!
• By living water bottle free for just one full weekend at the festival, it is an opportunity for
us all to think critically about how we live year round. You can do it all year too; many
are jumping on board this train!
What can you do?
• Most importantly, bring a reusable water bottle and use our Hydration Stations.
Each station is staffed by Ottawa Riverkeeper, The Council of Canadians, CUPE
National , and CUPE 503 to provide more info and answer questions. Check out the map
in the program to find out the location of the Hydration Stations offering great water right
from the Ottawa region.
• If you forget your bottle at home, pick up a stainless steel bottle at the Merch Tent.
• Thank all of the Green Team volunteers working hard to keep you hydrated, healthy, and
• Maude Barlow (Senior Advisor to the United Nations on Water Issues) is with us to
celebrate! Check out the festival program and attend her presentation on water issues.
We gratefully acknowledge all of our community partners and sponsors working with us to make
• The Ottawa Riverkeeper
• The Council of Canadians
• CUPE National
• CUPE 503
• TD Friends of the Environment Foundation
• The Water Store