Bonnaroo: Volunteering with Clean Vibes

Where did everybody go?

On Monday when everyone was packing up and leaving the Bonnaroo community, we moved our campsite to the camping area for Clean Vibes volunteers. After re-setting up our campsite, we walked around for about 20 minutes to look for a shower. Every time we came to a shower and our hopes rose, they died instantly as we tried to turn the showers on. All of the showers were shut off.

While looking for showers we also looked around the fields. Ground scores. Think of all the things people bring to a festival. Now think of all those things left behind. You name it, it was left behind. We saw full campsites equipped with tents, chairs, couches, coolers, clothes. I honestly felt like it was the end of the world and we were the last human beings on Earth, just taking whatever we could to survive. We found at least three 30 packs of beer and four coolers so we were set for the night/rest of the week. I found a spray bottle/mister/portable fan and was happy.

After walking another 15 minutes back to camp, unshowered and sweating, we laid at our campsite and just baked in the sun. Without shade. All weekend I was fine, but my body was starting to feel every burn, ache and sun ray. After lying around for a while, I ventured back out to find a shower. I ended up sneaking into the medical tents showers and showering for at least 20 minutes. The water wasn’t too cold, but I didn’t even care.

That night I met a lot of really cool people, hung out, listened to music and played soccer.

The next day we were woken up at 7 a.m. to free breakfast courtesy of Clean Vibes. And boy did it feel good to eat a real meal. I was extremely grateful for every bite of my eggs, sausage, homefries and yogurt. And coffee. After an experience like Bonnaroo, a few days of eating whatever you can whenever you can, a homecooked meal is the best thing that can fall into your hands. You really lean how to appreciate things, even after a couple days. That’s another thing I love about music festivals- they open my eyes to things I don’t even think about missing.

We were all set scheduled to work on the purple team. We were excited to clean the fields and find more ground scores while working. Instead, we were sent to a giant pile of recycled bottles and trash. For eight hours we had to dig through the trash, sort through recyclables, cardboard and compost.

As bags would come in to the yard we would tear them open and sort through, leaving the recyclables behind and taking the compost away, but mainly just tearing open bags.

Shade under the truck, feeling like the Box Car Kids

The sun was shining all day and our only hope for shade was hiding under a dumptruck/leaning on a dumpster. We got an hour break for lunch with free delicious sandwiches, cookies, fruit, chips and water.

Once we got back to work, the clouds overhead started enclosing the sky above us. A girl asked our boss, “Can we still work in this?” He responded with, “Yea we’re fine.” Not even five minutes later, the thunder roared and the rain came down, “Seek shelter” our boss screamed. Everyone ran in every direction. We started running back into Centeroo and ended up seeking shelter in the back of a tractor-trailer. It was such a relief for rain to fall after five sweltering days in a row. The rain also cut two hours out of our day work day.

Blurb from my journal after Day 1:

“As we were digging through the trash this morning and sorting through recycle, compost and trash, I started seriously thinking about trash. What is trash? What makes the cut for the definition of trash? Who’s to say what’s trash and what’s not? Who’s to say what’s anything really? Life is all about perspective. How you see, view, feel, taste, smell, touch, experience things.

The only thing I was certain about was compost. So I pretty much stuck to that. A playground of trash. A sea of recyclables. A sea of trash, of plastic. Where does all the trash in the world go? The recyclables? How exactly does compost work? Recycling? I want to learn a step by step process.

I haven’t stopped sweating since I got here. Haven’t sweated for so much, so long, so consistently ever in my life.

It was a really humbling experience to go through the trash today- knee-deep and sometimes waist deep in huge piles of it. For the most part I did a good job of sucking in my breath and holding my nose so the sour-smell wouldn’t infiltrate my nostrils.

I’ve never been outside for so long in my life. I’ve been living outside for almost a week. That in itself has been a mind-altering experience.

“When outside every hour and change corresponds to and authorizes a different state of mind, from breathless noon to the grimmest midnight…To the attentive eye, each moment of the year has its own beauty, and in the same field, it beholds, every hour, a picture which was never seen before, and which shall never be seen again.” -Emerson

 In certain ways I feel like I’ve lived here all along. It’s been so cool, so amazing to see the Earth at every hour of the day. At times it’s as if I’ve lost touch with reality, but then again, what is reality?”

A closer view of the 'trash'

After completing the second days 8-hour shift, I felt extremely good about everything. I was so happy to be able to help make the Earth beautiful again and to realize the impact we all made by volunteering. It was a very rewarding experience.

So would I volunteer with Clean Vibes again? Most likely.

The advantages:

-Meeting really cool people

-Making the Earth beautiful again

-Having a huge impact on the environment

-Finding sweet ground scores (Team Purple found the best ones out of everyone 😉 )

-Free meals

-Pretty much a free admission to the festival


-Working in the unforgiving southern sun

-Performing physical labor including bending and stooping

-Performing physical labor in the unforgiving southern sun

If you’re interested in volunteering with Clean Vibes, head to their website and fill out an application.

We did it!

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