Alumna Marina McCoy speaks at inaugural TEDx South Lake Tahoe

Marina McCoy speaks about sustainability and music festivals

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Alumna Marina McCoy speaks at inaugural TEDx South Lake Tahoe

McCoy delivering a speech on sustainability at South Lake Tahoe's first TedX conference

McCoy delivering a speech on sustainability at South Lake Tahoe's first TedX conference

McCoy delivering a speech on sustainability at South Lake Tahoe's first TedX conference

McCoy delivering a speech on sustainability at South Lake Tahoe's first TedX conference

Kyly Clark, Photo Editor

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Marina McCoy, Sierra Nevada College alumna and sustainability coordinator and consultant had the opportunity to share her ideas on Wednesday, Oct. 5 at TEDx in the Heavenly Village Loft Theatre in South Lake Tahoe.

TEDx is an event created in the spirit of TED’s mission from TED talks, “ideas worth spreading.” The program’s mission is to spark conversation and connection in local communities, organizations and individuals.

McCoy was one of ten speakers at the event and she chose her topic based on the current work she does as a sustainability coordinator with her company Waste-Free Earth. She focused on large-scale festivals, noting that although the events create community between like-minded individuals, they can also have a large environmental impact with over 800 music festivals in the U.S. every year.

With over 32 million people attending at least one festival per year, and traveling over 900 miles to get to the various locations across the country, over 28 billion miles are traveled each year just to get to the event.

“That’s 142 trips around the earth,” said McCoy. “Twenty eight million pounds of CO2 gets released into the atmosphere every year just from car emissions alone.” She explained the importance of lessening the footprint at festival events not just by miles, but by pounds.

McCoy coordinates a green team initiative at festivals to reduce waste and communicates with the box office, the front of house, artists, volunteers, vendors, and even bar staff to set sustainability guidelines for the event. This includes initiatives such as free water bottle filling stations, bans on single use plastic cups, compostable products within vendors, and a green team representative at every “zero waste” source station within the festival. Her education-based approach teaches attendees what materials are recyclable, compostable, and what items will eventually go into a landfill.

McCoy graduated in May with a dual degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus on Sustainability, and Ski Business and Resort Management. In her college career she has been awarded many titles, a few of which are “most innovative student of the year,” “inspiring community impact,” and “who’s who among students in America.”

“Marina was clearly the youngest and least experienced presenter in the event. However, Marina had one of the most professional, organized and well-prepared presentations,” said Rosie Hackett, a former professor of McCoy’s. “It was clear that Marina put in the time, effort, research, planning, and preparation needed to perform at such a high level.”

Hackett thought McCoy’s presentation captivated the audience in three potent ways: getting the audience to believe in the issues and impacts of music festivals, sharing solutions and concrete examples to show how she is making music festivals more sustainable, and her ideas of how one can transfer what they see at music festivals to improve their own impact in this world.

McCoy encouraged the audience members to “vote your festival,” an idea that inspires environmental sustainability in festivals. “Since there are so many festivals happening now across the nation, you get to pick and choose which one you want to go to on a certain weekend,” said McCoy. “So if you start saying that you want to go to festivals with sustainability workshops, aggressive composting and recycling initiatives, vote for that one, buy that ticket, and festival producers will start to notice that trend and it will force them to start changing their practices for their festival.”

McCoy shared the results that her team achieved from Winter WonderGrass, a music festival that takes place in Tahoe and in Colorado. This festival has an attendance of about 4,000 people over the span of three days. Her team was able to divert 31,000 pounds of waste away from landfills and into composting and recycling initiatives, with less than 4,000 pounds of waste into landfills. She also shared results from her first and favorite festival, the Frendly Gathering in her home state of Vermont. This three day overnight camping festival has an attendance of 3,500. The team went from producing over 26,000 pounds of waste to just over 12,000 pounds. They were also able to decrease their recycling by 25 percent.

“This isn’t just about music festivals. It’s about using music festivals as a platform to inspire environmental sustainability in our everyday lives and in our communities,” said McCoy. “Imagine the kind of impact that would have.”

Other speakers included Professional Snowboarder Pat Moore, Photographer Rick Gunn,

and CEO and founder of Elevate Blue Jameson Stafford. The Elevate Blue startup studio in Incline Village, develops and launches new companies to drive economic growth in the Lake Tahoe basin. Stafford’s lecture was about advancements in technology with our growing population and life expectancy rates. He shared examples of sustainable and vertical farming, virtual reality headsets, long-range self-driving vehicles, and robotic assistants.

“I know this sounds ‘out there’ but it’s not that ‘out there.’ Because all of these technologies are real and they are happening now,” said Stafford. “But it’s okay, we’re all here to solve problems, that’s what humans do and we work together and we figure it out.”

The TEDx events are created, selected, and promoted by local volunteers, and the founder and curator of TEDx South Lake Tahoe is Robin DeSota, an investment advisor of Palisade investments at Stateline in Nevada. DeSota closed the evening by thanking the audience, “I hope that you can take some of the ideas, emotions, and passion that you’ve heard tonight and integrate it into your own lives and improve the lives of our community members and people we know.”

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