Yesterday, I attended the Austin City Limits music festival in downtown Austin, Texas to enjoy live music in an open air venue with thousands of my closest friends. Which is to say I took the highway from the suburbs to downtown, which was bumper to bumper most of the way. Once downtown I circled for ages, looking for parking before walking to the shuttles which dropped me off within walking distance of the venue. And of course the process was made more difficult by the thousands of other people driving around throughout the city. All of this travel gave me time to reflect on some statistics about another outdoor music festival, Burning Man, published in a recent Scientific American:
Burning Man Attendees: 40,000
Carbon emissions from burning “the man”: 112 tons
Total on-site emissions: 2.473 tons
Emissions from participant’s travel: 25,019 tons
This made me realize how environmentally dangerous our cars really are. Even if the event had been held to raise money for environmental causes, the very act of bringing so many people together causes so much more residual polution that it would defeat the purpose! What could be more ironic than raising money for the environment by driving hundreds of cars in circles for days?
Organizers could dream up ways, like the natural gas shuttles provided at ACL, to lower the event’s environmental impact. What about walking to the event? It’s good exercise and there’s no internal combustion involved, right? Well, when you add up the carbon footprint of the delivery trucks that brought the food in your stomach to your local grocery store or restaurant, it turns out that on short trips your total footprint is lower if just drive there. SciAm notes that even Burning Man made a token effort, by generating their own power with a 30-kilowatt solar array.
Weeklong carbon offset by the 30-kilowatt solar array: 6.9 tons