At the end of the 2015 concert season, the St. Augustine Amphitheatre took a good long look at the amount of waste created during concert events. It was astounding. From tons of half-consumed plastic water bottles and excessive energy generated by traditional lighting, to heaps of non-recyclable containers and tons of food waste. It was after this study and further research that the St. Augustine Amphitheatre staff realized that concert industry conservation practices were nearly non-existent aside from specific tours such as Jack Johnson’s “All At Once” Tour that requested venue participation in conservation efforts during performances. Being nestled in Anastasia State Park and less than a mile from Salt Run, the Matanzas River and the Atlantic Ocean, the staff at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre realized it was time to do its part to reduce the impact of concert events on the precious natural surroundings and to pave the way for integrating conservation practices within the concert industry. With that vision, the St. Augustine Amphitheatre officially introduced the Green Hands Initiative at the start of 2016.
“Once we really took stock of how concert events impact our environment and community, it was one of those ‘life-changing’ moments,” reflects Ryan Murphy, director of the St. Augustine Amphitheatre. “We HAD to change the way we operated and we realized that in doing so, we have the potential to lead the industry and shape the model of sustainable venue management and concert promotion.” Murphy added that word’s getting out about the initiative already. “After attending several industry-focused conferences this year, I realized that many other venues and management teams were hearing about what we are doing here and wanting guidance to follow a similar model.”
The Green Hands Initiative is a commitment made by the SJC Cultural Events Division, which owns and operates the St. Augustine Amphitheatre and Ponte Vedra Concert Hall, to establish and maintain operating practices that align with the mission of conserving valuable resources and reducing unnecessary waste within the industry, the community and the world.
“I am so proud to have the opportunity to help facilitate such a challenging and important Initiative,” said Megan Murphy, Green Hands coordinator. “It is a necessary responsibility to care for the spectacular region and community that takes such good care of us here at the Amphitheatre. What an incredible thing it is to be able to enjoy your favorite band play in one of the most beautiful venues and proudly know you have had minimal to zero negative impact on the local environment.”
In 2016, the St. Augustine Amphitheatre integrated a number of energy and waste reduction practices including The One Less Plastic Bottle Program, which eliminated the use of plastic water bottles throughout the venue. Six filtered water refill stations were installed at the St. Augustine Amphitheatre for public and backstage usage, Concessions transitioned from selling plastic bottled water to boxed water sales and BPA-free Green Hands Nalgene refillable water bottles were made available for purchase to patrons during events. Patrons were encouraged to bring their own non-metal water containers to shows as well. The impact of these changes resulted in a total of 26,530 disposable water bottles being eliminated from usage and 42,520 boxed waters were sold at Concessions in 2016. Additional changes included the usage of reusable Green Hands totes for all hospitality shopping needs; eliminating the use of plastic bags; the installation of food waste composting bins and venue garden that utilizes the nutrient-rich compost soil; and a transition to energy-saving LED lighting backstage. The Green Hands Program also hosted a number of free, community events aimed at educating the public about environmental and conservation issues.
This year, the Green Hands Program has committed to implementing even more ambitious conservation practices which include, but are not limited to, the following:
- The completion of LED transition throughout the St. Augustine Amphitheatre
- A venue-wide transition to BPI-certified biodegradable plastic ware
- A transition to BPI-certified biodegradable cleaning supplies; and
- The implementation of a Carbon Footprint tracker as progress is made toward the goal of being carbon neutral
Because the Amphitheatre strongly believes that community impact must be at the forefront of all that is enacted at the venue, Green Hands has joined hands with neighboring elementary school R.B. Hunt and the Anastasia State Park to help them implement their own sustainability practices. To launch this partnership, R.B. Hunt and the Anastasia State Park will receive filtered water refill stations to be used by staff, students and community members within the next several weeks. Several community educational events are being planned as well for 2017, the first event being the April 23 NOW! On Earth Fest which includes a beach cleanup and a sustainability event in collaboration with North Florida Coastal Caretakers. Green Hands will also host its annual Sustainability Block Parties later this year.
2017 also marked a major development for the Green Hands Initiative as it welcomed a new community partnership with St. Johns County waste disposal, collection and recycling services provider Advanced Disposal Services, Inc (NYSE: ADSW). As the official community partner, Advanced Disposal committed $75,000 over a three-year period to the Green Hands Initiative. Together, the Amphitheatre and Advanced Disposal hope to engage the community in its efforts to promote conservation and sustainability.
“We have been proudly serving St. Johns County residents since 2000 and have been a sponsor of the Amphitheatre for the last three years. When the team approached us about their expanded ‘Green Hands’ initiative for 2017, it was an easy decision to extend our relationship and expand our partnership in support of this impressive program,” stated Greg Huntington, municipal marketer and government affairs manager for Advanced Disposal. “We look forward to collaborating with their team and reinforcing the Amphitheatre’s position as an industry-leading and environmentally-conscious live performance venue for the residents of North Florida.”
For additional information on the Green Hands Initiative, please visit www.staugustineamphitheatre.com and follow Green Hands on facebook at www.facebook.com/greenhandsfla or stop by the Green Hands table at the next concert event.