Bonnaroo, an iconic music festival in Manchester, TN, is more than just a line-up of incredible musical performances. Leading with the values of community, creativity, and positive influence, the Bonnaroo Works Fund was created in 2009 to champion non-profits and programs “changing the world through arts, education, sustainability, and social impact.” (Source)
The Works Fund hosts a village of non-profits on The Farm to engage with festival attendees and inspire action as they return home. One dollar from each festival ticket purchased supports Bonnaroo’s long list of sustainability practices, including a permanent compost pad, solar array, carbon offsets, community education, food recovery programs, and food bank donations. Additionally, the funds from the annual silent auction support those efforts and The Works Fund’s non-profit beneficiaries.
Urban Green Lab’s Assistant Directors of Classrooms and Workplaces, Christina Langone and Jackie Goodwin, had the privilege of leading panels in partnership with the Bonnaroo Works Fund on Environmental Inequity and Sustainable Consumption. Our diverse group of panelists left audience members with valuable information and inspiring calls to action. Our panel discussions were held on the only stage fully powered by solar energy.
The following insights were gleaned from a panel of experts on sustainable consumption. This blog is a summary of their thoughts on the topic. We encourage you to connect with the panelists to learn more about their perspectives and how you can get involved in their work.
Continue reading as we dive into how your purchasing power can better align with the values and causes you care about.
Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is
Everything we buy has an impact on the planet and its people. Awareness of the environmental impact of purchases and making ethical purchasing decisions is growing in consumer consciousness. However, Americans, on average, create five pounds of trash daily. Understanding the standards of sustainability held by businesses and the lifecycle of the goods we purchase from them is crucial in our efforts to become more ethical consumers.
Emily Winters, CEO of the Nashville Social Enterprise, Strings for Hope, expressed the importance of supporting businesses with values like hers. Strings for Hope creates hand-crafted jewelry made by survivors of addiction, domestic abuse, and sex trafficking out of secondhand musical strings. Ethical production, beautiful products, and diverted waste are all results of this sustainable ecosystem. People and the planet are the foundation, making transparency and sustainability easy values to uphold.
The Good Fill, offers an immersive learning experience in sustainability and low-waste living. Founder and owner Megan Gill, as well as other panelists, emphasized the reality that our dollars steer culture. Consumers must be aware of this so that we shift our votes and behaviors to ones that encourage sustainability. Additionally, when purchasing an item, she asks consumers to focus on materials that are recyclable or compostable at the end of their life. Overall, many panelists emphasized trying to buy less, but when you do buy, spend money on products that will last a lifetime.
Will Gray with Patagonia Nashville echoed similar thoughts regarding purchasing behaviors. As a great example to companies, Will shared Patagonia’s mission of constantly striving to improve their practices. Curiosity is at the heart of everything Patagonia does, and they ask customers to join them in this line of thinking. Various educational opportunities, such as in-store events, knowledgeable staff, and Patagonia films support this ethos. Through the Worn Wear program, Patagonia buys back used gear and clothing to keep goods out of landfills.
Yellow & Lavender are also passionate and successful in engaging the community while staying true to their values. Nashville’s first and only women, immigrant, BIPOC, neurodivergent, and LGBTQIA+ owned and operated vegan bakery, Yellow & Lavender has consistently been transparent in their values and uses its platform to amplify visibility for underrepresented communities and educate on timely issues. They also make top-notch pastries as they do it. For them, profit comes second to the community. Yellow & Lavender know people want to work where they believe in the mission and values. The owners are unapologetically bold in their choices, from ending their use of plastic packaging to disrupting the market with pastries new to Nashville, all while following a mission to create a welcoming, brave space.
Vote With Your Wallet and Ballot
Our panelists agreed that one of the best actions you can take is to vote for those pushing green initiatives and sustainability forward. We must make our voices heard and push forward on the issues our people and planet face. Our dollars shift politics and culture, too, so vote with your wallet and your ballot.
Do Your Research
When you find yourself in the market for a new product or service, research before you buy.
Consider some of these questions:
- Where did this product come from?
- Is it made with ethical materials and working conditions?
- What will happen to this item at the end of its life?
- Does the company hold similar values to my own?
- Does this company hold any certifications like B Corporation or memberships like the Social Enterprise Alliance?
- Utilize the B Corp Directory to find businesses worldwide using business as a force for good who keep transparency and accountability top of mind.
It may feel intimidating initially, but ask questions at the businesses you frequent. See if your values align with the company’s; if they don’t, that may mean shopping elsewhere or challenging them to shift their practices to better serve the community and the health of our planet. For those businesses that are already doing the work, still ask questions! Engage further in the conversation.
The power is in your hand to become a more conscious and responsible consumer. Support these businesses and put your money where your heart is.
- Bonnaroo Works Fund
- Social Enterprise Alliance
- B Corp Directory
- Emily Winters (she/her), Strings for Hope
- Megan Gill (she/her), The Good Fill
- Will Gray (he/him), Patagonia
- Ryleigh (they/them) and Lucy (they/them), Yellow & Lavender
- We missed The Nashville Blanket Project, but check out their work!
- Marissa Barrett (she/her), Nashville Blanket Project
Bethany serves as the Sustainable Workplaces Coordinator at Urban Green Lab. She supports the Assistant Director of Workplaces in oversight of the Urban Green Lab Certification Program, the Nashville Sustainability Roundtable, New Hire Orientation, and B Tennessee. Off the clock, you’ll find Bethany outside working in her garden, digging through an estate sale, reading, and traveling as often as she can.