The green(wash)ing of Bele Chere

Unlike many locals, I choose not to flee to the hills when Bele Chere comes around each year. We took the bull head-on this year and went for not one but two days. I have incredible appreciation for all the work that goes into making the festival happen.

As I heard whispers and claims about the greening of Bele Chere, I thought: Finally, they are really going to do something to make this 300,000-person party less wasteful. Then, as my family and I made our way to downtown on Friday evening and began to enjoy the music, I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about.

Just after my daughter almost got mowed down by one of the many gasoline-powered golf carts driving around, I saw off in the distance a lone, beer-company-provided recycling bin. I’m guessing there was no better than a 1-to-10 ratio of recycling bins to trash barrels. As if it isn’t hard enough to get drunken people to recycle when they’re tripping over the container, they now have to find them too. As someone who has run recycling programs, I know that the rule for success is that everywhere there’s a trash can there must be a recycling bin and vice versa.

We have one of the nation’s best green-event planners right here in Asheville—Seven-Star Inc.—that gave a proposal to Bele Chere to help in their greening efforts, but never received a formal response. While small steps are good, this was just another example of where Asheville’s green reputation outshone its reality, and a great opportunity was lost. Sometimes it’s not just the thought that counts.

I know there are many who would help in the effort to truly green the festival for 2009. We’re waiting.

— Matt Siegel

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