Each summer, I don my cowboy boots and head out to a local farm to volunteer for my favorite music festival. It is without a doubt, the richest, most inspiring part of my year. Beyond the obvious (amazing music, camping with friends,) Pickathon demonstrates how innovative supply chain relationships create a robust brand, which feeds a thriving organization. This case study has relevance for other events, for event organizers of grassroots outdoor music festivals to large international corporate conferences procure materials and enlist, build and influence an army of people and businesses.

Pickathon has had a commitment and reputation for deep sustainability in the festival world for years, from the elimination of single-use cups, bottles, dishes, and utensils, to the thousands of miles of LED lights that are used for wayfinding in the forested venue. As a long-time volunteer, I was especially moved by these two examples of thoughtful supply chain engagement:

Upstream- Habitat restoration/ development

Pickathon thoughtfully considers far upstream in the supply chain. This year, the pre-fest and backstage catering company sourced most of the protein from farms within 30 miles of the venue. The team made bacon and smoked the bones for stock as a way of utilizing all parts of the animals. Pendarvis farm, the long-time venue for Pickathon, is an enclave for wildlife and native plants. By sourcing from local farms, the team both procures high-quality, small-scale food, and also helps to protect the adjacent farmland.

Downstream- Diversion Architecture

A stage for a music festival is more than just a dramatic backdrop for the performers; it is an artful symbol that demonstrates the ethos of the event. Pickathon’s partners have dedicated time and resources to creating a special outdoor stage, called the Treeline Stage. The stage is designed, modeled and built by a student-led team from Portland State University, with the unique challenge of minimal waste ethos: borrowing and returning materials from their industrial use, calling it “Diversion Design/Build”.

The 2016 team, led by professors Travis Bell and Clive Knights, a local construction firm, and the Pickathon leadership, collaborated for months to ensure a structure that will meet sustainability, safety and performance criteria. This year, almost 1,300 pieces of dimensional lumber were used to create a sculptural palette. The construction firm has already taken the lumber on to its next useful life in framing.

What is required to model these daring acts of supply chain innovation?

  1. Engaged, committed management: Pickathon leadership prioritizes participation in project-level meetings, facilitating change and empowering passionate people to innovate.
  2. Dedicated resources: Each year, resources are allocated for new supply chain experiments. There is an entire volunteer team devoted exclusively to handling waste onsite, and it is aptly named the “recycling” team.
  3. Contractual reinforcement: All of the contracts with vendors have strict sustainability requirements.
  4. Active fans: Embodying the participation economy, Pickathon regularly checks in with its fanbase via facebook or website, to solicit feedback around changes, growth plans and radical new sustainability experiments.

The Pickathon leadership continues to improve their strategies every year, deepening their model for supply chain innovation while at the same time, growing at a sustainable pace. I’ll be dreaming of the new and exciting initiatives in development.

Written by:
Romana Cohen
Sustainability Project Manager, MeetGreen and Volunteer Extraordinaire