From Coachella to Pitchfork Festival, revolutionary non-profit helps music fests go green

Coachella-goers get excited about recycling

By Hilary Gridley

Now that summer festival season is officially in full swing, we wanted to take a look at an organization that’s harnessing the energy and passion of music-loving festival-goers, and using it to promote a healthy environment. Eric Ritz founded Global Inheritance to inspire others to think creatively about solving world issues. Over the past 10 years, the nonprofit’s presence has grown to music festivals and other cultural events around the country. In addition to creatively encouraging people to recycle and preserve the environment at festivals including Coachella and Stagecoach in Indio, Calif, First City Festival in Monterey, Calif, and the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago, they’ve also set up ride share programs to the Hollywood Bowl, and will have a presence at Maker Faire, a Bay Area gathering of artists, tech enthusiasts, crafters, engineers, science clubs, and other “makers.”

Global Inheritance’s programs include:

  • Energy Playground, where festivalgoers can bike, swing, hamster-wheel, seesaw and more to power concerts, snow cone machines, or their phones.
  • TRASHED :: Art of Recycling, where artists redesign recycling bins and then place them at high visibility events to encourage recycling, and
  •  Energy Battle Royal, where professional wrestlers take on the roles of different sources of energy to showcase the advantages and shortcomings of wind, coal, nuclear, natural gas and more.

We talked with founder Eric Ritz about his unlikely inspiration, the history of Global Inheritance, and what the future holds for creative activism.

Polar bears play on an energy swingset that powers cell phones

Music For Good: What inspired you to start Global Inheritance?
Designing campaigns built around educating people through untraditional mediums was a career I always wanted to pursue.  Avocado Productions/ Guacamole Fund was one major inspiration. They were one of the early pioneers in producing concerts that promoted worthy causes, committed to using music events as a medium to inspire/motivate individuals. The bands were a bit before my time but Avocado Productions seem to be always organizing amazing events year round.

Working the launch of American Legacy’s Truth campaign was another major inspiration. No NGO in history had ever launched a multi-billion dollar campaign to empower different types of individuals and develop micro campaigns to target each group.

How has the organization changed since its inception?
The core idea is still there — using creativity to inspire and teach while targeting the crowd and not the choir — but we’ve branched out into other areas. We originally called the organization Fashion Peace when we launched in 2002. The concept was that everyone was a walking billboard and that people should wear or design outfits that promote the issues important to them. We worked with a lot of major fashion brands, held workshops, fashion shows, etc.

As we started to talk with festivals, we needed to develop the organization in order to have a stronger impact on the festival grounds. Everyone at the office started brainstorming ideas for interactive programming and we came up with TRASHed Art of Recycling and the TRASHed Recycling Store. The first TRASHed Art of Recycling campaign took place at Coachella in 2004 and the first TRASHed Recycling Store took place at Warped Tour in 2004. Ever year now we look to introduce new programs and ideas so the organization continues to evolve.

You all run a whole suite of activities at Coachella and music festivals around the country to conserve energy and reduce waste in ways that are totally unlike other nonprofits. How do you come up with your program ideas?

Through the miracle of coffee and good genes, we are lucky to have a lot creative individuals who not only design great program concepts but have the ability to bring the ideas to life.

Which program is your favorite?
It’s difficult to say.  I truly enjoy all of our programs in different ways. I guess my favorite program is always our newest campaign. Maybe that’s because it needs the most love and time, and it’s too small to walk on its own.

Can you tell us more about the environmental impact your programs have had?

Global Inheritance was designing creative interactive environmental programming before anyone else in the major festival and event world.  We were fortunate enough to have a great design team in Eyerus/Matt Brady along with good ideas and a pit bull mentality to persuade festival goers to donate space, program promotion and sometimes a little money. The ideas were always good and they worked so we kept getting asked back or invited to other events. It’s a different animal now but it feels good to know that we helped inspire these festival and event producers to step up their game, educate and be responsible.

We hear this year’s TRASHed Coachella recycling bins are looking for new homes. Where have they ended up in the past?
Schools, museums, offices, music venues. We’ve gifted thousands of redesigned recycling bins over the years. In regards to Coachella, we only gift the TRASHed Coachella bins to schools in Southern California.

Can you tell us about what the future has in store for Global Inheritance?
We are currently working on developing the TRASHed program in Miami and Latin America. Last year we hosted an intimate event during Art Basel. We’re planning something much larger this year, including a pop up TRASHed Recycling Store. Gian Luca Brignone is leading the charge in Miami and we are expecting big things!

We’ve also already received approval to bring the Oasis Water Bar back to Coachella, which is very exciting. This summer we are working with a number of festivals including Outside Lands, X Games, US Open of Surfing, FYF Fest and many more. There are several other projects we’re currently developing so stay tuned.

Want to get involved with Global Inheritance? Learn about volunteering and partnering with the organization here.

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