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October 23, 2019

Matthew BurmeisterArizona State University student Matthew Burmeister has been doing incredible work in sustainability with "Sustainable Sound: Festival Guide," a guide to making music festivals more sustainable, which originated from a Sustainability Connect project.

Based on his experiences, Burmeister has some "sound" advice for students who are inexperienced in sustainability projects: “Don’t give up — when I first came up with the idea for 'Sustainable Sound' I had zero connections with anyone in the festival industry or even any experience in event planning. Regardless of my unfamiliarity with the field, I wanted to do this project so badly that I took the time to reach out to industry professionals and dug into the existing research and frameworks. After countless phone calls, emails, pitches and rejections, I am now working with some of my favorite festival organizations to help them transform their events.”

Burmeister’s story is one of hard work, resilience and transformation of event planning. He's currently pursuing a Master of Sustainability Solutions. Read his Q&A to learn more about him and his project.

Question: Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your passions in sustainability?

Answer: I am an Arizona native who was raised by two “children of the '70s.” Growing up, my parents taught me valuable lessons about equality, the beauty of nature and the importance of creative expression. As a child, I was fortunate to be able to travel and meet amazing individuals around the world. The common theme shared by the people I admired was that they all worked to improve the lives of others. When it became time for me to decide what I wanted to do with my life, I felt like I had a solid foundation but no specific direction. I knew that I was interested in the intersection between science, nature and business. However, I was unsure about how that could be applied in the professional world.

It was by fortunate coincidence that I came across ASU’s School of Sustainability. I completed my Bachelor of Science in Sustainability and my Minor in Business in December 2018. During my time as an undergrad, I was able to explore the various branches of sustainability. I discovered that I was passionate about bringing sustainable change to the business sector. To gain a deeper understanding of corporate sustainability, I decided to continue my education and pursue a Master of Sustainability Solutions, a degree which I will complete in December 2019.

McDowell Mountain Music Festival PhoenixQ: Tell us about your project and the trends that you are seeing.

A: Across the world, music festivals draw in hundreds of millions of fans and generate billions of dollars of revenue. Although the music festival scene is extremely popular, it has been facing scrutiny over its lack of sustainability practices. When improperly managed, music festivals damage natural systems, miss out on opportunities to support and engage with fans, and exclude local businesses.

The movement for sustainable music festivals has already begun. However, it is still far from being the industry norm. Only a select few festivals currently embrace sustainability as a core value. Many others still make zero effort to mitigate their negative impacts. Even though numerous drivers are pushing for an industry-wide transformation, many organizers are unsure about how to implement sustainable change.

To address this knowledge gap, I am creating the "Sustainable Sound: Festival Guide." The guide is built upon the Mair and Jago green events framework. It also contains tried-and-true methods from some of the world’s most sustainable music festivals and market-based research. Upon its completion, the guide will be reviewed and adopted by organizations such as M3F, the Cosanti Foundation and ASU's CSSI.

In addition to creating the guidebook, I am also working with M3F to develop its sustainability goals and strategy. M3F is a local nonprofit music festival that takes place in Downtown Phoenix every March. Currently, M3F is on track to become Arizona’s first carbon-neutral festival and achieve over 90% waste diversion. For more information and to get tickets for M3F, please visit the M3F website.

Q: What is the most enlightening aspect of your project?

A: The most enlightening aspect of creating my project occurred during the initial planning stage. I don’t know how it happened, but all at once I understood exactly how the five core competencies that I had learned during my time at School of Sustainability (systems thinking, future thinking, values thinking, strategic thinking and collaboration) were going to come together to create the ultimate sustainable festival guide.