Four years ago, recycling was not on the radar at the Ichthus Music Festival, which attracts 20,000 (mostly young) Christians each year. Both Ichthus and Blessed Earth are located in the little town of Wilmore, KY, so it’s not surprising that the two teamed up to start a recycling program.
It began with the Sleeth family and their friend, Andy Bathje, leading an enthusiastic team of Asbury University volunteers, picking cans and bottles from the trash. As the three-day festival progressed, more and more attendees started placing their recyclables in the proper bins. By the end of the festival, some band members were even helping with the sorting and collection process.
Now, four years later, recycling is not only a permanent fixture at Ichthus, but a central part of the festival’s “walk the talk” message. One dad even said that finding bottles to throw into high visibility recycling structure (and competing for prizes) is his son’s favorite part of the whole weekend.
Some stats from the June 2010 festival, courtesy of Andy Bathje, who now leads the recycling effort at Ichthus with the youth volunteers from his ministry, Confrontation Point:
- Over 60,000 beverage containers were collected and saved from landfill.
- The plastics recycled weighed 1.25 tons, equal to 2 months of county-wide recycling.
- Over 50 volunteers collected, sorted, and crushed the containers.
- To help keep concert attendants hydrated with less waste, recyclers also gave away 1,000 gallons of free water to those who reused water bottles.
Festival-goers were encouraged to write their name and cell number on bottles before throwing them into a twelve-foot high cage. Each evening, an “eco-diver” painted green and wearing a cape drew a winning bottle from the cage, and awarded prizes such as Blessed Earth books and film series, t-shirts, and a guitar signed by all main stage artists.
A couple of years ago in Chicago, Matthew met a man who described a lady picking recyclable bottles out of the trash at Ichthus. Matthew proudly replied, “That was my wife!” The tradition that Blessed Earth helped start lives on, and grows bigger each year.
Photo: Andy Bathje sits atop hundreds of plastic bottles recycled at the Ichthus Music Festival.