As the crowds milled throughout Outside Lands on the festival’s first day, the grass was trampled, but not untidy.
San Francisco’s largest summer music festival is making a push for a greener festival, with plans to eliminate nearly all plastic water bottles and straws, and offer reusable cups for beer and wine.
The effort coincides with the city and state’s recent war on plastics. Last month, local officials enacted a ban on the sale and distribution of plastic straws and other plastic dining items, following similar ordinances in Alameda, Berkeley and Oakland in recent years. Other regulations are still rolling out. Starting next year, the San Francisco Department of the Environment will require organizers of events on city property with more than 100 people make reusable cups available to at least 10% of attendees.
At the state level, a new health code makes it easier for “temporary food facilities,” which include festivals, to offer reusable wares. Workers can clean containers or utensils that are designed for reuse on-site, instead of having to bring them to an “approved facility,” when the bill takes effect in 2020.
On Friday, Ray Larios and his wife, Alice, sat in the grass, taking in the scene. They hoped the effort could prevent waste like plastic water bottles from littering the ground and remember seeing mounds of garbage pile up in the years past. They bought a reusable cup on day one.
“If they knocked it down a few cents, I think that would incentivize more people to buy it,” Ray said. “But it’s cool memorabilia to have after the event.”
Festivalgoers can bring their own container and refill them at the four water stations on site, or pick up a stainless steel cup for $6 at the beer hall. The cup has a carabiner clip welded to the side so it’s easier to carry around. At the festival, compostable paper straws were available by request.
Nick Burchett, who lives in Sacramento and works in sales at a small winery, already bought one reusable cup and said he plans to buy a second with the Wine Lands logo.
“We invented this cup for Outside Lands,” said John Borg, founder of wholesale supplier Steelys Drinkware, which is based in San Francisco’s Dogpatch neighborhood. The goal was to design a reusable container that was more convenient than a plastic, single-use water bottle, which inspired the clip.
“An event like this is a great way to reach young people who are open to other alternatives,” he said. “They take their reusable cup with them, they take it home, and they use it in their everyday lives.”
Festival staff setting up and tearing down the sets were also drinking from reusable water containers.
The catering company’s staff are only allowed to handle the bottom half of refillable cups. Workers are supposed to wash their hands at 60-minute intervals and after opening each new case of refillable cups, which have to be stored at least 6 inches off the ground, as do cases of wine or other booze.
When pouring any beer or wine, the catering company said its staff cannot let the neck of the bottle or tap touch the rim of the refillable cup; if it does, the tap must be cleaned with a santized wipe.
Under the maroon and gold tent at Wine Lands, which showcases almost four dozen wineries mostly from Northern California, workers poured into reusable plastic cups, with markings for one ounce, four ounce and eight ounce pours. The cups cost $2 each.
Niki Jones, a resident of Walnut Creek, and a group of her friends returned to the festival with the reusable wine cups they bought at Outside Lands three years ago. The cups haven’t cracked or lost their shape after years of use.
“They’re good for patio wine,” Jones said.