How this Concert Venue Achieved Carbon Neutrality

If you live in the Santa Barbara area, there’s a good chance the last concert you saw was at the Santa Barbara Bowl.

Nestled in the hills just a short drive from the LoaTree office lies this 17-acre, 5,000 occupant venue known to locals as “The Bowl.” Built in 1936 as part of the New Deal Project, The Bowl boasts a long and prestigious lineup of performers — including Bob Marley, Katy Perry, and Paul Simon just to name a few — and continues to garner universal notoriety for its incredible atmosphere.

But as popularity surges, so do logistical problems. More people generally means more impact, which generally means more problems. To combat this, the Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation has placed immense emphasis on and investment into improvements that make the Bowl more sustainable. Hosting approximately 30 large-scale events per year, there is no question that there is a significant environmental impact from general Bowl operations. But in recent years, the Foundation has begun efforts accurately dubbed as “Greening the Bowl” which consist of several exciting and eco-friendly programs.

Stewards of the Land

As a natural preserve, the Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation felt it was crucial to maintain a thriving natural environment by cultivating native and drought-tolerant plants. By nurturing native flora and fauna, the Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation has created a beautiful micro-environment home to a wide variety of animals including deer, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, Great Horned Owls, hawks, falcons, and lizards, amongst others.

Additionally, the Bowl hires goats to come in and eat the brush, which helps to reduce fire danger while aerating and fertilizing the soil. Who doesn’t like goats?!

Really though, everyone loves goats.

Bike To Your Next Concert

Anyone who has attended an event at the Bowl would likely agree that the parking situation is atrocious. However, this obstacle has encouraged biking as an alternative and greener form of transportation, which the Bowl has whole-heartedly embraced with their free bike valet service. Volunteers from the Santa Barbara Bike Coalition manage the bike valet area, checking in bikes and transporting them to a secured area until after the event. Avoid traffic, park for free, and get some exercise for your next Bowl show – hop on your bike!

Thanks to SBBike, you can bike to your next concert at the Bowl.

Thanks to SBBike, you can bike to your next concert at the Bowl.

Reusable Pint Program

My Cup and Me

90,000 plastic cups wasted per concert year can be offset by bringing your own.

In the summer of 2014, the Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation, in collaboration LoaTree, launched the My Cup and Me Campaign to reduce single-use plastic cup consumption at Bowl concerts. For $10, patrons can purchase a sturdy, stainless steel, Santa Barbara Bowl-branded cup and be eligible for $1 discounts on all future drinks by presenting their cup to the food service professional. By offering concert-goers drink discounts for bringing their pint, the Foundation hopes to eliminate up to 90,000 plastic cups per concert year. 

Bowl artists such as Jack Johnson, Phish, Tedeschi Trucks Band, and many more have jumped on the bandwagon, creating their own custom cups for their Bowl shows. We wonder what big artist will be next. Help the Bowl go plastic-free and purchase your cup at the next event!


Green Project Consultants properly dispose of waste

Green Project Consultants make it possible to properly dispose of waste.

Waste Diversion

Perhaps the most successful aspect of “Greening the Bowl” is waste diversion, which is the process of diverting waste away from landfills. California Law requires large events and venues to participate in waste diversion as part of a larger effort to reduce unnecessary waste.

Since 2013, the Bowl has steadily improved its own waste diversion, achieving an impressive 90% diversion rate last year, which means that only 10% of ALL the waste generated at the Bowl ended up in a landfill! The Bowl has set ambitious goals for the future, hoping to eventually achieve a 99% diversion rate. Such success is due in large part to its partnership with Green Project Consultants, who manage and operate the waste diversion program, as well as the reusable pint program which has significantly cut down on single use plastic cups.  


In a project spanning multiple years, the Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation is en route to replacing all of the old and inefficient light fixtures in the amphitheater. In the most recent renovation, the Bowl replaced the original incandescent lamps with ultra-low wattage LED fixtures, resulting in an estimated 60% electrical saving per fixture. In addition to replacing inefficient fixtures, in 2013, the Bowl went solar! Planet Solar gifted the Bowl it’s current solar panels, which rest atop the spotlight house and provide nearly all the energy necessary to power concerts annually. Currently, there are plans to install more solar capacity in order to provide enough electricity for the Bowl’s year-round energy needs.

Carbon Neutrality

Santa Barbara

Due to its efforts in encouraging alternative forms of transportation, adopting comprehensive waste diversion programs, spearheading the reusable pint program, and completing extensive energy initiatives, the Santa Barbara Bowl became the FIRST carbon-neutral outdoor concert venue in the United States back in 2012! Concert venues around the country should follow the Bowl’s footsteps for better venue practices. By making relatively small changes over nearly a decade, the Santa Barbara Bowl is leading the charge into the era of green!

Leave a Reply

Send this to a friend