Feature Interview

Rocking The Daisies: Play Hard, Tread Lightly Part 1

There is a tendency to overlook the big picture when an event grows to the magnitude of Rocking the Daisies. In its eleventh year running now, with an expected 25 000 capacity in October this year, Daisies is  one of the best and most anticipated festivals in the country. Described as a global game changer in a recent article featured in Huffington Post, there is little room for this event to go but up. However, in spite of the massive attention the still young festival has gleaned, it is a fact often forgotten by the large majority of the party-goers that Rocking the Daisies is first and foremost, a Green Festival.

With the long standing motto “Play Hard, Tread Lightly”, the festival upholds strict environmental and social responsibilities within their event organisation. With a hefty number of environmental awards under its belt, Daisies has proven that it never falters – where possible – from its eco ethos. Nevertheless, with a target market which consists primarily of wild 20-something party-goers, there remains the inclination to forget this. It’s a difficult thing, to try and convince 25 000 people, simply looking for a damn good party, to adhere to a “leave no trace” policy.

“The greening aspect is integral to how the festival has developed and grown over the years,” explains Vicky Johns, the head of 2016’s Greening Team. Over the last decade Rocking the Daisies has developed from their humble beginnings to the massive festival it is today. Even Greening the smallest of events presents its challenges and Daisies has impressively upheld their eco ethos over the years as their popularity grows in leaps and bounds. “Collectively, we are certainly not perfect at this stage,” admits Vicky. “But through our initiatives we can continue to refine our processes and policies and share this learning with everyone who engages with the festival.”

Rocking the Daisies have been listed as highly Commended for the A Greener Festival awards for three years running, being the only South African entrant into the competition. “As an Eco Assessor I monitor and report on how a festival adheres to basic event greening principles,” explains Danielle Klaff, an Eco Auditor who has been assessing RTD for A Greener Festival since 2012. “We look at environmental policies, water usage and saving options, energy, waste, pollution and finally off-setting – through community outreach programs or tree planting.”

The Daisies’ Greening team is vast in terms of the scope it covers and the festival’s eco vein runs far deeper than many imagine. Every stall holder is required to use biodegradable bio-ware when serving food, as well as encouraged to use natural detergents. All grey water produced at the food court and shower blocks is portioned and used to both reduce dust pollution on the roads and filtered for irrigation on the farm itself. A large portion of the compostable food waste is used by Plant the Seed and Sustainable Brothers and Sisters for a variety of local tree planting initiatives in Mamre. All refuse, where possible, is recycled.

“Our responsibility is to provide bins for the public, service these bins, keep the festival grounds clean and remove all the waste from the site,” says Philippa Mallac, co-director of waste management of the festival. The waste is then transported to a nearby depot where it is sorted and recycled, while the food waste is composted. Little known among the festival goers however, the waste management crew do not tend to the campsite other than emptying bins at regular intervals. “The campsite is the responsibility of the campers: their private personal space to keep clean – but they don’t,” adds Philippa. A mass evacuation of exhausted, hung-over festival goers on Sunday leave in their wake a sea of trash where four days before were pristine grounds cleared just for their benefit.

A year or so of this observation influenced Philippa to launch an initiative she dubbed the Conscious Clean-Up Crew (aka The Green Parade). After two years of implementing the initiative at fellow festivals, such as Origin and the Flamjangled Tea Party, she introduced it to Rocking the Daisies in 2012. The idea was to bring in a volunteer crew of avid festival-goers who would help raise the consciousness of the campers on leaving no trace. The energetic group of volunteers parade the campsite and hand out dustbin bags. They collaborate with Trashback – whose stations, dotted throughout the festival, reward hand-delivered bags of trash with prizes and shots of tequila. “The idea behind it is that they are – first and foremost – festival-goers themselves’ which ideally inspires their peers to take responsibility.”

Pop-up crowd cleaning is another idea behind the Conscious Clean-Up Crew – becoming fully implemented from 2015. Following the mass evacuation of fans from the Main Stage area volunteers among the crowd, armed with dustbin bags, begin picking up the sea of litter left in their wake – motivating members of the public to engage.

“I got involved with the Conscious Clean-Up crew in 2014 – so this will be my third year running,” says Enya A. Loots who has been working with the initiative since her first time at Rocking the Daisies. “This has been amazing to be a part of and I honestly think – although this is probably unrealistic – that everybody should participate to some extent.” She laughs. “It’s important that people know that it’s an eco-festival, but you can still come and have as much fun as you want without harming the environment.”

Look out for Part 2 coming Monday where we shed light on how eco conscious our favourite festival is.