Photos by James Bridle (cover photo) and Alive Coverage
If you noticed, there were quite some changes at Ultra Music Festival this year. The Virginia Key venue, being an obvious one, but also, the introduction to a new environmental protection and sustainability campaign to protect that venue. This campaign, titled “Mission: Home,” actioned remarkable new shifts within internal operations, as well as with vendors, employees, volunteers, and attendees to work together to reduce environmental repercussions—and just last week, Ultra’s Senior Manager of Sustainability, Vivian Belzaguy, announced that the successful campaign “will continue in 2020 and beyond.”
The “Mission: Home” campaign included initiatives such as a Leave No Trace policy, single-use reduction recycling efforts, and a recycling and composting program. In addition, the campaign prohibited beach access, increased free water refill stations to further reduce plastic water bottles, banned polystyrene (Styrofoam), plastic straws, cups, food packaging and cutlery, balloons, confetti and streamers, merchandise plastic bags, and distributed free pocked ashtrays to reduce cigarette litter. Under this campaign, Ultra also created an internal sustainability department and engaged with a global environmental consulting firm to assist in creating a plan to protect susceptible areas and wildlife.
Collectively, “Mission: Home” initiatives avoided the use of 526,000 single-use plastic items and diverted 60,360 pounds of waste from landfills. 31 percent of the waste created during the festival was recycled or composted, and 100 percent of the recycling loads were accepted by the local facility.
Ultra’s environmental education and awareness content reached 2.7 million people through social media and nearly 60,000 attendees per day for three days of the event.
Local environmental organizations VolunteerCleanup.org, Surfrider Miami and Debris Free Oceans collaborated on an unbiased, third-party report card detailing Ultra’s achievements and key learnings, giving the festival an overall first-year sustainability grade of an ‘A’. Of the 19 initiatives that received an individual grade, 14 received a grade of A- or higher.
“Ultra Music Festival sets the bar in festival greening” read the headline of the report card post on volunteercleanup.org. The report goes on to state, “We were thrilled that the venue appeared exceptionally clean. There were enough waste stations, appropriate messaging, and volunteer staff to establish the social expectations which the attendees followed.”
Before this past year’s event, Ultra stated that the mission of the campaign was “to preserve our home on Virginia Key, reduce our environmental impact and inspire our attendees to protect the planet,” and according to results, they did just that.
“This event has set the bar very high for all events… We were astonished at how clean the park was from the start of each day to the end of each day,” Virginia Key Beach Park Trust Special Events Liaison Michelle Swaby wrote in an email to the City of Miami Commissioners. “Even the attendees did their part in throwing trash in the proper receptacles.”
Read more about the “Mission: Home” campaign here.
Check out Ultra’s full continuation announcement here.