On a Greener Note

 Folk Cycle is dedicated to actively demonstrating renewable energy, through human power, to furthering renewable energy education. | Photo courtesy Folk Cycle

Philadelphia Folk Festival forges partnerships to create
a more sustainable event

The Philadelphia Folk Festival has grown far beyond the scope conceived when Pete Seeger headlined the original in 1962. It now draws more than 12,000 campers, volunteers, craftspeople and musicians to Old Poole Farm.

It’s fitting that the event Seeger kicked off keeps looking for innovations to reduce the festival’s environmental footprint; it’s equally right that a man with a Masters Degree in City Planning is helping execute those partnerships when the event is held August 14 to 17 near Schwenksville, Pa.

“While the Philadelphia Folk Festival attracts a wide range of attendees of many different age groups, socioeconomic backgrounds and geographies, we've found many of our guests, volunteers, and performers to be of an environmentally-conscious mindset,” says Noah Swistak, associate director of the Philadelphia Folksong Society.

This year they will partner with Eden Green Energy, a biofuel company that provides vegetable oil recycling, and Folk Cycle Home-Spun Energy, which performs on a bicycle-powered stage. It plans to debut its Pedal Electric Generator (PEG) during the Philadelphia Folk Festival.

Folk Cycle’s Bill Hyatt says the company is dedicated to "actively demonstrating renewable energy, through human power, to furthering renewable energy education" and that the demonstration offers a message of conservation. Even though the amount of power saved by one person per hour is relatively small, he believes that people who see the demonstration will be more conscious of their own energy consumption. And he hopes that awareness will inspire them to be more determined to reduce their own energy usage.

“And that message can make a difference to us all,” he says. “Everything we’ve built, from the pedal electric generators to the power distribution system, to the importance of the message, is made to perform.”

Just as folk is music for and made by common people, a group of long-time festival campers have created a “Leave Nothing But Footprints” group on Facebook. Their goal: connect campers who will inspire respect for the land where the festival is held. Additionally, the festival is holding a “greening and folk” discussion in the Cultural Tent this year, where the people behind these partnerships will be featured.

“With so many folks who care about these issues gathered in one place, it's important that our organization, as the producer of the event, give them the ability to put their ideas into practice,” Swistak says.

Story by Shawn Proctor