For Peats Sake

It’s festival season again and one of our favourites, Peats Ridge, is kicking-off on December 29 in the beautiful Glenworth Valley. It’s not your usual festival – Peats Ridge is three days of arts, workshops and, of course, live music – all with a sustainable twist. Tickets are available online or, if you want to party from your couch, you can live stream the whole event via YouTube! Don’t forget to bring your best costume for the fancy dress NYE Masquerade Parade, judged by the one and only Environmunter (AKA Peppermint’s Ben McGill). We sat down with founder and director Matt Grant to find out more about Peats Ridge, what they do for the environment, and what we can expect from the festival in years to come.

What is the philosophy of Peats Ridge?

Our philosophy is spiritual, social and environmental. We are fully inclusive and believe that festivals can be a good way for people to come together and create something that is greater than the sum of its parts (and have fun along the way!) Sustainability is our mission and our aim is to leave the beautiful Glenworth Valley in a pristine condition. It’s a huge focus of what we do and it crosses every part of the festival in different threads – sustainable event production, education and awareness. We hope that everyone can incorporate some small changes into their lives after joining together at one of our festivals. If we can have a giant event in a Valley without damaging the eco-system, then it’s clear that we can all find ways to tread gently on this earth in our daily lives.

What are some of the ways Peats Ridge encourages sustainability?

Peats Ridge has experimented with lots of different techniques and had great success with many of them – composting toilets, waste management and recycling, grey water recycling, container waste deposits, solar power and eco-friendly suppliers and sponsors. Importantly, we are the first and only festival in Australia to be 100% powered by bio-diesel, renewable energy. We have an Eco-Living Village at the festival, featuring constant presentations and workshops on new technology and developments in sustainability, which is the cornerstone of Peats Ridge. It’s always packed!

The festival is now in its eighth year. How has your attitude to sustainability changed over time?

Adaptation is a big part of all of our lives and experiences. Change is the only constant! We have learned a lot along the way and it’s really exciting to be presented with new ideas. One thing that is truly inspiring is meeting people. It is incredible what the so-called ‘average Australian’ is doing to be more sustainable. There are people from all walks of life with excellent ideas and fantastic stories. When new people join the festival, it often blows them away when they meet others making steps to be more sustainable. It lights a fire in their belly!

I think a lot of people would associate a typical music festival with gross consumption (pre-packaged food, bottled water etc.). Do you ever find that your ethos and your audience are incompatible?

Good question! The vision for Peats has always been to bring together these two things – a huge event with a vast gathering of humans and a way of making it happen in a way that is kind to the Earth. It is what sets us apart from many other festivals and it is a draw-card for our audience. Our patrons have an emotional connection with Peats and the keystone is in sustainability. Even people that you would never think had any interest in the environment are often really interested in it and are just looking for some information, some awareness and some pointers. It’s a fact that most people care about these issues and are looking for leaders to show them the right direction.

What has been the biggest challenge over the years? Has anything ever made you doubt your original vision?

Staging an event of this nature is a job that is, in essence, about facing and meeting challenges. A festival is the result of 1 million solutions to 1 million problems. We faced a huge challenge when Peats Ridge had to decide to cancel in 2007 due to a once-in-a-lifetime weather event. That one episode had implications that still affect us to this day, but we are pretty much out of the woods. If people knew all the challenges in putting on a festival, they would never think any price for a ticket was too expensive! If anything, in 2011 our original vision has been nothing but strengthened.

From a personal perspective, what is most rewarding about the festival  for you?

That one’s simple – for me it’s all about making people happy, and if I can make a difference in the world at the same time then my life has had purpose.

What would you like to see happen in the future for Peats Ridge?

One of the things I love most about Peats is the support and encouragement we give to up-and-coming artists. I would love to grow this element of the festival and bring in a grants program for emerging artists. I am also really passionate about constantly pushing the boundaries with new sustainable event technology and finding new and better ways to reduce our impact. This element really excites me!