Greening the Santa Barbara Bowl

Each month, something magical happens in 791 cities around the globe: the uphill battle is redefined, and the folks demanding change can sit back, celebrate our victories, and realize that the idea of a sustainably minded community is more than a vision, it’s a growing reality.

Each month, LoaTree convenes Green Drinks in Santa Barbara, joining inspired individuals together to mingle, share their passion for environmental business, and kick back with a few cocktails. This month, Green Drinks will take place on Tuesday, May 15, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. at Savoy Cafe and Deli.

Eric Shiflett, the Program Director for the Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation, will be presenting about “Greening the Bowl,” highlighting specific efforts the charming concert venue has spearheaded to walk the walk.

Jenna Ryan: So exactly what has the Bowl done to move towards sustainability?
Eric Shiflett: The biggest thing is that we sort all of our own trash — you don’t see recycle bins here because, in a lot of ways, that’s a type of green-washing. Recycling bins tell the customer that it’s their responsibility, but that’s not really true. In order to make sure that we’re reducing our landfill, we have to go through our own trash. We actually pay employees to sort through it the next day and ensure it’s all getting disposed of properly… We’ve signed a contract with Planet Solar to try and get us to net-zero emissions over the next several years, based completely on solar. We try to be as close to paper-free as possible, we’ve changed all of our lights to be low voltage, we use environmentally friendly paint with fewer chemicals and lower chemical emissions once it’s on the wall, we use CFL light bulbs. You know, we’ve got the small projects and the big projects that we’re constantly looking at and managing.

JR: Any fun stuff?
ES: Right now we have 150 goats on our property eating all of our fire hazard shrubbery down to the ground. We do it every 3 to 5 years through Brush Goats 4 Hire. The first department comes out here and identifies where to take it down. Instead of a bunch of guys crawling around all over the property with a bunch of motors going, we have all these goats. It’s really funny… and really cute.

JR: Are there any musicians that you’ve noticed prioritize sustainability more than others — what sort of environmental efforts do you see from artists behind the scenes?
ES: Bands are often very environmentally conscious. The cause for the music industry is not uncommon — it isn’t uncommon for bands like Radiohead, Pearl Jam, Jack Johnson to come in here and say, “Hey man, we’re doing everything we can to lower our footprint on the tours, and we need you to do the same.” We’re almost always already taking the measures they demand. We can either be forced to do it, or be a leader and say, “Hey, we’re already doing all that.” And, to be honest, by being more environmentally conscious we’re identifying places where we’re going to save money; there’s definitely an economic advantage that opens up a lot more opportunities.

JR: It sounds like you’ve had a huge hand in the Santa Barbara Bowl’s green projects. How did you get to where you are — was this the goal? Did you picture yourself doing something like this?
ES: I started playing violin when I was 5 years old, and ever since I began playing I knew I wanted to be in the music business. I came to Santa Barbara because Santa Barbara was cool and I started as a music major. I didn’t end up as a music major, but wanted to be around music. I honestly weaseled my way here, into the Santa Barbara Bowl; I began taking on tasks until they didn’t have a choice but to hire me full time. Ever since I was a little kid, the environment has been a real love and concern for me — I’ve been fortunate to take on the environmental aspect and do something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. From my experience, you will get to do what you want if you stick with it. I’ve never seen somebody that is really dedicated to something not end up being able to do it. If the environment or music is your calling, keep chipping away at small things. Live by that, and trust me, work hard at it — you may go through a few lean years — but you’ll get there.

-Jenna Ryan, LoaTree

(Bowl photo from:

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