“Play Hard, Tread Lightly”
Rocking the Daisies 2015 literally rocked me, physically and mentally. And it’s not just because I attended with a bad case of the flu or crammed into a two-person tent with three people and a backpack as a pillow. No—the music and energy that permeated the festival grounds for the three days I camped out in the grass was both palpable and contagious.
I began my journey to Daisies when I first heard about their reputation as a “green” festival—one that is entirely committed to good music and good times, while also being mindful of our impact on the earth. Their mission statement reads, “We aim to host a premier music and lifestyle festival in an environmentally and social responsible manner under the motto of play hard, tread lightly.” This, alongside RTD’s slew of environmental awards, highly informative environmental audit and impact assessment, social initiatives, and environmental partners, was more than enough to convince me to come and jam to some incredible bands. So I got online and booked a ticket (where I was pretty much told that not showering for the duration of the festival was socially and environmentally responsible—score, an excuse to be dirty!) and jumped in an Uber with four new friends, some camping gear, and far too many snacks.
We drove an hour and a half to Darling through miles and miles of open countryside and vineyards, spotting the occasional cow, horse, sheep, ostrich, and flamingo that kept my mind off the fact that my knees were squished up to my chest. From all the shouting and pointing I did, my friends might tell you that I was more excited about the roadside animals than anything else at the festival. But of course there were so many sites and sounds to appreciate!
When we finally made it to the Daisies gate, friendly staff reminded us that there is absolutely no glass permitted at the site whatsoever, so that cheap bottle of wine in your pack would likely be confiscated upon entry—boxed is the way to go! This was especially nice since it made it safe for me to walk around the festival barefoot when my black leather boots turned gray from all the sand and dirt.
After navigating the queue of hundreds of excited festival goers, we set up our home for the next three days amidst tents of all sizes, shapes, and colors. Everyone around us was eager to introduce themselves and share the Daisies experience with their campsite neighbors and friends. Almost immediately I noticed the cleanliness of the campgrounds, as it was already one day into the four-day event. Waste disposal sites were common and scattered throughout the area with bins clearly and brightly labeled “Paper,” “Plastic,” “Cans,” “Other.” This made it extremely easy and convenient for everyone to pick up after themselves and even recycle! I also frequently spotted festival staff dragging massive cloth bags filled with trash through the grounds for proper disposal.
It was obvious that RTD was not all talk—they were making a real effort to be sustainable. They even had a sign posted in each porta potty describing how, “[Water conservation] is one of the most critical environmental global issues,” and ensuring that RTD’s water supplier “meets all environmental criteria set out with regards to production processes and locality of production.” It is no wonder that they won the Eco-Logic Award for Climate Change in 2011 and the Climate Change Leadership Award in both 2009 and 2010. For those of us making an effort not to purchase plastic water bottles, there were free water stations all throughout the festival site as well where you could fill up and re-hydrate.
On Saturday I had the chance to hang out and chat with December Streets’ Tristan Coetzee and get his opinion about these and more of Daisies’ sustainability efforts:
“Being a regular performer at most of South Africa’s music festivals, I’ve had the opportunity to witness the impact festivals with the capacity of 20,000+ attendees can have on the environment and its surroundings. RTD is truly in a class of its own when it comes to sustainability and its implementation into music festivals. What really impresses me is the initiative to educate from a creative and interactive perspective that allows festival goers the opportunity to realize their direct individual and group impact. Being immersed in drives such as collecting cigarette buds in exchange for a drink, walking to the festival, and preferential parking for eco-conscious actions like carpooling or cycling to the festival all contribute to bettering the understanding of the ‘green’ initiative RTD drives. And I think it’s bloody brilliant. By the end of the festival I can physically see how much better of a state the grounds are left in compared to others.”
All of these small but influential additions to RTD made it that much easier to enjoy myself there. As Tristan mentioned, they even offered incentives such as a free shot of alcohol in exchange for a full bag of trash (for those of you really looking to enjoy yourselves) alongside re-usable beer and wine cups that were for sale at the bars. They also had a place called “The Green Village,” with various speaker presentations and workshops, environmentally-conscious vendors, and clothing donations. As someone who is hyper-aware of humankind’s effects on nature and wildlife, I could dance barefoot in the sun at RTD with complete peace of mind knowing that they are equally as aware and taking every precaution to reduce the festival’s own impact.
My time at Rocking the Daisies came to a close on the shoulders of a brand new friend, screaming to The Kooks’ “Naïve,” a band I haven’t seen since I was 16 years old. It was truly a magical experience and one that I will find hard to forget, despite not having many pictures to commemorate it. I woke up in a dewy tent early Sunday, packed up my things, recycled the last few bottles and cans I could find strewn about the silent tents, and headed back out on another, this time much-needed, calming drive through the countryside. So if you are looking to hear some fantastic music, party with some friends, or just experience festival culture, all the while promoting sustainable practices and protecting the earth, next year’s Rocking the Daisies is an event I would not miss.
See some of these green initiatives in action in last year’s official aftermovie below (approximately 4 minutes in):