Ultra’s ‘Mission: Home’ Sustainability Program successfully executed 30 initiatives at the 22nd annual, sold-out festival which took place March 25 – 27 at Miami’s Bayfront Park.
The program focused on five objectives – Waste Reduction, Pollution Prevention, Nature Preservation, Community Engagement and Climate Action – and has now received awards and verifications at the international, state and local levels.
Ultra’s commitment to ‘Mission: Home‘s vision, “to expand the environmental consciousness of everyone our programs reach, positively shifting behavior both on and off festival grounds,” was evident in their previously released 2022 Sustainability Report, below. The report highlighted several impressive achievements, including 128,000 pounds of waste diverted from landfill since the program’s inception and a new food and supply rescue program that resulted in over 22,000 pounds of resources being reutilized. This detailed tracking and reporting of the program’s impact led to Ultra being recognized this year, both within the events industry and by local and global environmental organizations, as a leader in sustainability among U.S. electronic music festivals and beyond.
“Our ‘Mission: Home’ program has become part of the fabric of our organization,” says Ultra’s Founder and CEO, Russell Faibisch, “I was thrilled to see it return with us this year and could not be more proud to be recognized as an industry leader in this space.”
The Florida Festivals and Events Association (FFEA) is a leading state-wide resource for festivals and events whose mission is to promote and strengthen the industry in Florida. With a network of over 5,500 events, the FFEA recognized 60 organizations as SUNsational Award winners at their 28th annual convention. Amongst over 500 submissions in 20 categories and awarded based on applicants’ innovation, individuality and creative collaboration; Ultra’s ‘Mission: Home’ received 1st place in Volunteer Program, 2nd Place in Education Program, and tied for 2nd Place in Sustainability Program, surpassed only by events that were fully-focused on sustainability.
159 volunteers participated in various ‘Mission: Home’ activations in 2022, including supporting environmental organization-led educational experiences at Ultra’s Eco Village, and assisting Ultra’s waste management and recycling partner, Clean Vibes. This built on the volunteer program introduced by Clean Vibes at Ultra 2019, in which 90 volunteers participated. Over the past twenty-three years, Clean Vibes has diverted over 22 Million pounds of event waste from landfills. They also pride themselves on cleaning to the highest standards, including the removal of small micro-litters that pose a threat to the environment and wildlife. Together, Ultra and Clean Vibes have achieved 100% acceptance of recycling loads at local facilities since ‘Mission: Home’s inception in 2019.
Additionally, volunteers teamed up with international non-profit organization Bye Bye Plastic Foundation, who facilitated multiple dance floor cleanups throughout the festival, a tradition Ultra started in ‘Mission: Home’s inaugural year. During these cleanups, attendees engage in personal responsibility for their spaces by assisting – and dancing with – volunteers while collecting litter. Many who participate are surprised with artist appearances and the gift of Ultra superhero capes.
Internationally renowned DJ, Sam Feldt prepares to set out on a dance floor cleanup.
“It’s too clean! I can’t find any trash… but we’ll find it!” said Sam in an interview with UMF TV.
New this year, the Student Volunteers Program run by Ultra’s Sustainability Department provided local university students with an opportunity for hands-on experience in implementing event sustainability initiatives to the highest standards. Student volunteers helped by ensuring compliance with the festival’s bans on styrofoam and other single-use plastics together with concessionaire Best Beverage Catering, supporting verified carbon offsetter, Climate Futures with an educational VR experience about taking climate action, and observing Biscayne Bay protections installed by Stop Ocean Pollution (SOP) Technologies to prevent litter from entering storm drains in and around Bayfront Park. In a follow up survey, 100% of student volunteers who responded agreed that their experience “helped develop [their] personal, academic and professional goals.”
Together, Best Beverage Catering and compliant food vendors have helped Ultra reduce an impressive 1.1 million plastics and 85% of single-use plastic types previously distributed, including cups, straws, plates, cutlery and many other food service wares. Additionally, volunteers surveyed the festival’s water refill stations, supplied by Event Water Solutions, which have eliminated over 400K plastic water bottles from entering the waste stream since 2019. Because of this, Ultra was invited to join Miami-Dade’s new county-wide ‘Plastic Free 305’ program and accompany County Mayor Daniella Levine-Cava and other founding members at its inauguration.
Ultra’s environmental education campaign was vital to all 30 sustainability initiatives, which built awareness among staff, vendors, partners, attendees and their large global audience before, during and after the event. The public online campaign has reached 5.5 million people since the program’s inception, in addition to the industry professionals educated via a plethora of internal trainings, manuals and other communications developed by Ultra’s Sustainability team. Additionally, there were 60 onsite opportunities for attendees to engage with ‘Mission: Home’, including immersive education experiences utilizing both virtual and augmented reality, digital screens displayed on Ultra’s Main and Worldwide Stages and physical signage throughout the festival. In partnership with Ocean Conservancy, new “Connect to Nature” signs brought awareness to several natural features of Bayfront Park and Ultra’s iconic backdrop, the ecologically-important Biscayne Bay.
‘Mission: Home’ also added a Climate Action objective this year, which focused on understanding and reducing the climate impacts of waste and energy sources. Of the 22,500 pounds of resources recovered in their rescue programs, over 17,500 pounds consisted of unused food and beverages which were donated to local homeless outreach center, Miami Rescue Mission. This represented over 2,800 meals provided to food-insecure people and potential greenhouse gas emission reduction of 7.59 metric tons, from food that was either rescued or composted instead of landfilled – equivalent to 854 gallons of gasoline conserved. Ultra also partnered with CES Power, a specialty entertainment power supplier, as well as internationally renowned energy efficiency experts, ZAP Concepts. Together, they conducted an energy efficiency assessment and reduced fuel consumption by 28% by switching several areas from generator to grid power and reducing runtime for redundant generators. Additionally, Miami-based carbon-offsetter, Climate Futures, is conducting a carbon footprint study and will support verified offsetting projects on Ultra’s behalf.
The new Climate Action objective and thorough documentation of 30 successfully executed sustainability initiatives earned ‘Mission: Home’ verification as “the most extensive sustainability program across leading U.S. electronic music festivals” by Miami-based environmental non-profit, Debris Free Oceans. Debris Free Oceans utilizes scientifically-sound education, advocacy and community engagement to inspire sustainable lifestyles in Miami and beyond. The verification consisted of a comprehensive assessment of comparably-sized U.S. electronic music festival sustainability programs, which used the number of initiatives executed, presence of education campaigns and impact reports as comparative factors to determine their extent. Starting with a list of 24 electronic and mixed music festivals, Debris Free Oceans determined which were most similar, and therefore deemed comparable to Ultra, in terms of music genre, attendance, and reporting. They then cross-examined the publicly-available information about the sustainability programs of the 7 comparable festivals against that of Ultra.
Even when comparing across electronic music festivals of a wider range of sizes, Ultra’s number of sustainability initiatives surpassed those of all other festivals examined. Beyond that, pre-event community cleanup and education provided by the sustainability team are two initiatives uniquely offered by Ultra that no other fully electronic festival appeared to offer.
“Debris Free Oceans truly recognizes the standard set by Ultra to place itself as the leader in sustainability among various electronic festivals. Ultra’s initiatives help to not only address the negative environmental impact of a festival but also directly target the root-cause of the problem, such as the ban on loose glitter.” – Caiti Waks, Co-Founder and Board President, Debris Free Oceans
Beyond local and state recognition, ‘Mission: Home’ was also acknowledged by Oceanic Global, an international NGO that works with organizations around the world to empower industry-specific solutions that protect our planet. Their ‘Blue Standard’ program includes an intensive audit and assessment of operational sustainability. Through Oceanic Global’s multi-tiered assessment, Ultra earned ‘2-Star Blue Verification’ which required the elimination of 6 single-use plastic types and implementation of 3 ‘Blue Actions’, regarded as best practices for comprehensive sustainable operations.
“Oceanic Global is honored to recognize Ultra Music Festival as a Blue Verified business through our Blue Standard. Ultra is the first music festival of its scale in the U.S. to earn Blue recognition! Ultra has gone above and beyond reducing single-use plastics to take comprehensive sustainability measures. They accomplished so much with a full team of staff and volunteers to bring their 30 ‘Mission: Home’ sustainability initiatives to life.” – Cassia Patel, Director of Programs, Oceanic Global.
Ultra’s commitment to sustainability not only leads by example for millions of fans globally, it also shows what’s possible for the events industry worldwide.
“It is a true honor to be recognized by these respected leaders. Our hope is to continue to impress them as we grow in our mission on this global stage and to watch as our community grows with us.” – Vivian Belzaguy Hunter, Director of Sustainability, Ultra Music Festival.