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Fill your bike tires! Rinse out your refillable cup!: Going green at Treefort

Boise State’s longstanding, creative partnership with Treefort extends to Treefort’s Green Team, the group that strives to make the festival synonymous with sustainability.

“Almost everyone on our team graduated from Boise State in the last few years,” said Kat Davis, Green Team Main Stage manager. “It’s a little family.”

In addition to her work at Treefort, where she’s volunteered since 2017, Davis is the sustainability coordinator at Boise State. She works with facilities to reduce water and energy use, provides professional development and leadership opportunities for students, and is part of the new Sustainability Governance Council that aims to create a sustainability action plan for campus. She also partners with the university’s Service-Learning program on projects to promote recycling and cleaning up after events in the city and on campus.

Treefort is still looking for volunteers, including for the Green Team. When volunteers register, they choose their top three desired volunteer teams. Treefort organizers do their best to match them. Find more online:

Kat Davis. Photo courtesy of Kat Davis.

Davis told us more about sustainability at this year’s Treefort

Q. What are some of the green innovations we should watch for?

A. As we did in 2019, we will again attempt to create a totally plastic-free event at the Main Stage. People are invited to bring reusable cups. Special steel Treefort cups will be available again. The cups come with a carabiner so you can clip them on your backpack. And if you don’t have a cup, you’ll be able to rent one. We’ll also offer composting, and blue bin recycling. This year, we’re piloting a reusable bamboo plate program for Foodfort. The Green Team will oversee wash stations, working with Central District Health to make sure everything is up to code.

Q. How can we be more green at Treefort?

A. Treefort regulars have their systems down. They have their backpacks with everything they need (extra layers, reusable cups. The Treefort website also recommends bringing a lightweight bag for food and merchandise, and traveling on foot, by bike, or on the bus). It’s good for everyone to be cognizant of how they’re disposing of things and to adopt the buddy system. If you see someone dropping something, make sure it’s thrown away properly. We have teams who go out every morning and sweep up. Our goal is to leave the city cleaner than how we found it.

Q. Why do you think Boise State and Treefort are such natural partners?

A. One thing is that people on our campus are committed to service. That’s why we work for Boise State. Treefort is almost entirely volunteer-run. It’s an effort of love and the pure joy of making it happen. That’s a trait of Boise State as well. And there’s innovation. The fact that Treefort is trying to push limits and find new ways of doing things, even before the challenge of COVID. The festival and Boise State are about community and connections rather than a competition mindset.

Q. If someone is new to Treefort, what do you want them to know about the festival?

A. That it’s not Lollapalooza. You won’t know every act because that is not the purpose of Treefort. The best part is wandering and discovering new spaces or new music. You can follow the sound – literally – and find something you’re interested in. There’s no one specific genre. Be open to what you find. And don’t just focus on music. Some of the best experiences I’ve ever had were at Storyfort. And Storyfort is free.

Q. What else is special about this year?

A. This is the only Treefort that has ever been in the fall which is interesting and different. It probably won’t snow, which is nice for those of us who have worked outside at the festival in March. This festival will have its own special vibe. I’m grateful organizers have figured out how to do this in a safe way because people are hungry for connection and for art.

Kat Davis (L), campus sustainability coordinator, and Boise State student Kelsey Cooper working for the Green Team during a past Treefort. Photo by Patrick Sweeney.

More about the Green Team:

The Green Team formed in 2014. Each year the team adds new initiatives (going plastic-free at the Main Stage in 2019, for example) that will reduce the festival’s environmental impact. Here are some other improvements through the years:

2014: Providing compost bins, using solar power for parts of the Main Stage

2015: Reducing beer cup use by introducing refillable steep pint cups and becoming the first festival to be a Certified B-Corp (a designation for businesses that meet high social and environmental standards).

2016: Establishing Treefort’s carbon footprint for the Main Stage and using carbon credits to offset.

2017: Launching “ReFort,” the reuse or upcycle of prior Treefort decorative items.

2018: Introducing steel cup use at Alefort to replace plastic.