While sustainability has always been a goal of the Honesdale Roots and Rhythm Music and Arts festival, attempts at recycling festival waste did not officially begin until 2009.  However, in 2009, volunteers were unable to keep up with the sorting demands and the recyclables were eventually disposed of in the trash.

The 2010 festival was a different story.  With the help of a local waste consulting firm, a significant amount of festival waste was able to be successfully diverted for recycling purposes, and the festival became award-winning, earning its first Waste Watcher award and being recognized by the Professional Recyclers of Pennsylvania (PROP) as one of over 120 municipalities, counties, private businesses, individuals, and community organizations from throughout Pennsylvania for going above and beyond what is mandated under Act 101, the Municipal Waste Planning, Recycling and Waste Reduction Act.

Building on the success of the 2010 festival, the 2011 festival remained committed to its “green” mission and once again helped divert a considerable amount of recyclables from ending up in the landfill.

A Recycling Committee was officially established as part of the festival’s ongoing planning efforts; over 30 volunteers from various community organizations registered for early morning set-up, collection and sorting shifts throughout the day; professional “Think, Before You Throw” signage was donated, and the festival’s Food Committee Chair worked closely with food vendors to help decrease the use of non-recyclable materials.

“Our team of volunteers help guide the festival-goers and answer questions,” said Cheryl Badner, “so there is no confusion about what waste to put into what bin. And the system has paid off! In the two years before the recycling program was launched in 2010, Badner points out, Roots & Rhythm collected aggregated “garbage” of more than 4,200 pounds each year. After several years of working towards zero waste, at the end of the 2016 event, the team collected only 360 pounds of trash. There were also 480 pounds of recyclables, and 38 bags of food waste / compostable material collected, compared to zero in each category in 2008 and 2009. Roots & Rhythm won its first Waste Watcher Award for 2010 waste diversion efforts, its second for 2013 waste diversion efforts, and now, its third for 2015 waste diversion efforts.

Working with the local farmers, the 2012 festival incorporated food waste recycling, which diverted a significant amount of compostable materials from going into the landfill, helping the festival earn its second Waste Watcher award.

In 2013, signage was improved at all of the waste disposal stations and the Recycling Committee’s name was revised to “Sustainability.”  A “Sustainability” tent and banner was added to serve as a check-in point for volunteers and place where festival-goers could stop by to learn more about recycling and sustainability.  Volunteers were stationed at all of the well-marked waste disposal sites, helping educate festival-goers on the differences between trash/landfill, recyclables, and food waste/compostables.

As a result of ongoing Sustainability Team efforts, in 2014 Roots and Rhythm was designated a “near zero waste” festival.

For 2015, the 10th anniversary of the Honesdale Roots and Rhythm Music and Arts Festival was “greener” than ever, as food vendors were asked to use only compostable or recyclable service-ware and over 90% of the festival’s waste was diverted from the landfill when compared to the 2009 festival.

The festival is now a three-time Waste Watcher Award recipient as a result of the waste diverted during the 2015 event, and is now considered "zero waste." The Festival Board encourages the public to please continue to “Think Before You Throw” and drop all waste into the appropriate and well-marked bins throughout the park.

If anyone is interested in helping make a difference for the 2017 festival by volunteering for the many committees and/or jobs that are needed to put on this tremendous festival, please email Ryan Williams at ryan.festivaltown@gmail.com.  Please put “R&R Volunteer” in the subject of your email.