Rainbow Serpent Festival

One of the most rewarding parts of working within Green Chief is the implementation of the ‘soft’ side of sustainability practice. The creative, left field projects that compliment the ‘hard’ side of rubbish separation, diversion from landfill and long physically demanding hours.

Rainbow Serpent 2014 proved to be a playground for the instigation and fine tuning of a number of creative initiatives. Some were quite practical, such as facilitating a change in infrastructure to remedy a long time problem. Bin stations unlit at night are thought to encourage, or at least not help, instances of littering through the wee hours. Our solution was designing a strip of LED lights, colour coded to match the waste streams and affix them onto our current bin stations. Et voila! Disco bins!

Two larger projects, handled by our new Creative Liaison Steven Kennedy, revolved around communication and bought even more talented people into the Green Chief fold. A massive success was the re-imagining of our roving performer group, swelled to a group of 16 and managed by two passionate and organised individuals Mira Melaluca and Joe Oppenheimer. Having previously tried to manage the operational AND creative sides simultaneously whilst on site had meant that invariably the creative side took the brunt of lack of resources, time, energy or manpower. Even we haven’t learnt how to be in more than one place at a time! So a shuffle-up of responsibilities and the creation of a couple of new roles within the Green Chief RSF structure helped our vision not only grow but allowed fresh perspective and ideas to be fully expanded. It also meant an exchange of skill sets with Green Chief gaining insight into the mystical world of rehearsals, green room needs and stage management. In short, the OR (Order of Recycling) were born and undertook evangelical style picketing as a welcome to patrons alighting the bus, mormon-style door knockings on campsites which were particularly messy and made 7 appearances across the more popular dance floor’s to encourage patrons to pick up litter. If that schedule wasn’t busy enough, they even slipped in a few choral arrangements outside of the composting toilets. See more of The OR here.

Our usual communication methods span email newsletters, websites, posters, stage announcements and on site signage but these methods, although effective for directional information, are static and can often be lost amongst the plethora of alternative information being pushed by the festival organisers. Ergo, a message that would have a deeper impact, perhaps producing a cultural shift, a change in behaviour or even a new social norm had been devised. An amalgamation of funding through the Rainbow Arts Grant and a talented individual know as Phillip Bateman aka Bravo Charlie, was to bring this message to life. A Rainbow sustainability documentary was to be born!

A brief was compiled from a shot list, key messages and key concepts with the open-ended ‘more than 3 minute film’ and further additional inclusions such as interviews, the concept of OR and the Green Chief educational ethos running a thick vein through it. A labour of love ensued with Phillip working diligently to shoot footage and then begin the arduous task of post-production. The result is due to be released to the Rainbow Serpent patrons close to 2015’s ticket on-sale date.

Collaboration, not only with passionate professionals but with Rainbow patrons themselves fuelled a fertile creative year, with at least a couple of long-life, far-reaching fruits. A nod should be given here to the experienced team leaders which allowed the operational side of the sustainability department to run smoothly and cope with a larger than usual crowd. Without their support the seedling creative division could not have flourished as it did. Go team!

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After rising to the challenge of an unexpected sold out crowd at last year’s Rainbow Serpent Festival in Victoria, we were more than ready to handle the smaller crowd of 2013 with grace and aplomb. Blessed with an amazing crew on the Green Chief team, this Rainbow saw many aspects of our sustainability program finally implemented efficiently and successfully after several years of tinkering and experimentation. The proof was in the pudding – our varied approach, including audience engagement, art, performance, and some kick-ass logistical systems all combined to improve our recycling rate and reduce the clean up workload and costs at the end of the day.

Our traditional bag deposit system came into its own this year, and the campers responded with zest and an outpouring of thanks. We were able to better capture the huge volume of recyclable material from the campsites over the course of the weekend, and overall the cash deposit and return system worked a charm. Our roving performance troupe won over the masses with the engaging story of ‘The Ghosts of Last Years Tarps’, where abandoned camping items begged for proper burial lest they be doomed to haunt the site forever. On top of that we were particularly stoked to be granted stage time to host participatory dance floor clean ups, furthering our one-on-one contact with the audience in a fun and creative format. All up we had 12 slots on stage, and the reception was hugely positive. I’ve personally had many people ask for MORE! Massive thanks goes to the punters for their continued support, persistence and participation in helping keep their temporary home a beautiful place.

We also benefited from the support of the core organising crew and marketing team, helping us secure some stage time and giving us page 3 of the festival booklet, along with their continued support in funding better infrastructure and encouraging our arts and performance approach. The festival has a huge audience, and we need the help of the people at the top to effectively reach the community. This year’s Rainbow was a great example of the impact of having the support of the whole event, of well placed communications in promoting great systems. Hopefully the final facts and figures support the cultural changes that we see first-hand. We know the audience is willing to take part, and it’s only a matter of time before more events see the benefits of investing in creative approaches to waste management.


Victoria’s Rainbow Serpent Festival brought in 2012 with a capacity crowd, exceeding by far the estimated attendance and keeping all the on-site teams on their toes. We encountered a few overflowing bins, but a solid crew and a few innovations helped us stay on top of the mayhem.

Green Chief had made so many good friends at Woodford that we decided to kidnap some of them for our Rainbow Serpent road trip. Essie Thomas and JR joined the sustainability management team, while a gaggle of Woodfordians shone in roles for other departments. Members of our local team from Beaufort stepped up into supervisor roles as Fi took on the job of market liaison and Emma Wasson rejoined us for an RSF reunion. Good staff make all the difference – Amie even swindled a rare day off!

We got to play with a few new items in the green team inventory, most notably a beautiful, shining sorting table made for us by our new pal Jon to save our backs. Our other prized possession was the massive on site composting bay that was built this year. JR and crew crafted a beautiful hot compost heap with regular watering and turning, breaking down all those corn-starch cups and reducing the huge volume of green waste by swathes even as the festival continued. The finished compost will be used on native bushland regeneration on the property.

Clean up saw a big mess left by the big crowd, including entire campsites abandoned and expensive gear left in the fields. Gladly we had some heavy machinery to help deal with the waste and we saved time by recycling straight from the camp sites into an ex-council garbage truck.

With the influx in audience numbers shown in a corresponding amount of trash, even the punters thought this year was a bit too messy. Springing up post festival, a Facebook litter shaming group sparked online debate, with discussion focusing on every single person’s responsibility to participate in a clean festival. Try as we might behind the scenes, a truly green culture needs each of us to take part in reducing our impact.


The behemoth that is Rainbow Serpent Festival has been and gone and left an incredible mark on our souls. The best Rainbow yet in terms of teamwork, recycling rates and final clean up time. This time Green Chief had an awesome team of 4 Shift Supervisors, 2 team leaders and 1 Green ops specialist making up the core crew. We also had around 8 local crew taking care of the morning emu picks around the arena and the Loot Ute collection service for the markets and the campsites, who worked on a daily shift pattern. Complimenting this were over 60 volunteers throughout the weekend, these guys and gals spent most of their time in the Recycling Centre sorting and processing the recycling and organics. Occasionally, if they were very good, we’d release them onto the dance floor to make clean areas for dancing feet. Overall it took 2  1/2 days to clean 90% of the entire site, which left the small pick crew from Talbot Football club 6 hours work when collecting bottle caps and cigarette butts.

There were many initiatives over the weekend, two of which had been allocated funds from the Rainbow Serpent Arts Grant. Our Can Collection device this year was named Vol-CAN-o and situated by the Rainbow Spoon Gateway to the south of the main arena. Not as popular as last year’s Canaconda-although it did re-use much of the new materials from last year’s structure and was made from 92% reclaimed/up-cycled materials-it proved mostly popular with the festival kids who could be found scaling the mountainous top and crawling inside to see just how it worked.

The roaming theatrical pursuits of The Varishard hit Rainbow for the first time and made quite an impression. With 5 performances spread over Sunday, Monday and Tuesday of the festival a story was developed over time which included; The rapid growth of the Trash Monster (a holy mess of trash walking on stilted legs), regular sightings by David Fat-and-through and his TV crew-who would commentate on the growth of this being, the two Garbage Grannies and finally our very own Trash Bag Sheriff (who managed to find time to act as Shift Supervisor, Recycling Centre Manager and set-up and pack down crew. This girl is magic!)The hot and sweaty work put in by this troupe of 5 amateur and professional performers is believed to have contributed untold amounts to the reduction in the final clean up time. Did we mention it was just 2 1/2 days? Rock on.

A change to regular staffing meant that our very own Green Ops were on hand to rig lighting, repair/build/re-build bin stations, back trailers, borrow equipment and fill holes left by bogged waste trucks. Unfortunately we cannot name these individuals as this would compromise their positions…we’ve said too much already. General awesomeness was also found in our very own Market Waste & Recycling Co-ordinator ( aka M-dog) who did a stirling job settling the Food Market stallholders, inducting them to the collection process, holding a welcome meeting and collecting feedback at the end of the event. Emma was responsible for the set up and running of the Bag Deposit system-a mammoth task which lasts all weekend and means multiple trips to the front gate either by bike or by commandeering a golf buggy. Not an easy task in its self. Around 80% of all those partaking in the scheme returned their bags and got their refund which again was super successful. And finally, our Ute Loot team. The boys in the utes did good-flat out manic on the Tuesday and Wednesday after the event taking down tents and ferrying all manner of items to the recycling centre. Extra hours were required of these guys who also rescued equipment from the ultra-boggy Shine On site, serviced the bins in the main arena as well as the Market Stalls and rose magnificently to the challenge. Every single day. Kudos.

But what about fun I hear you cry? Yeah, we managed to have a bit of fun over the 18 days Green Chief were on site. All of the Shift Supervisors managed a whole day off each, in which to run riot. The obvious benefits of such rostering were relaxation (sleep) and rejuvenation(beer) but it also allowed the team to see, from a punters perspective what was working and what wasn’t. For example, with the Rainbow site being so huge it was obvious that more bin stations were needed and those that were placed well should have been lit at night with an obvious sign or marker. Many improvements were suggested at the debrief meeting, but generally the team left the site feeling that they had finally cracked it. Although the  jury is still out on exactly how much of the total waste was recycled, you’ll hear about it, and the upcoming initiatives for next years Rainbow here first!


2010’s Rainbow Serpent has a beautiful new site on agricultural land framed by dams, national forestland and a couple of hilly outcrops. With the lovely landowner Hugh keen to inject new life into Lexton, one of Victorias many dusty forgotten country towns, an event that regularly attracts 15,000 people over the Australia Day weekend is sure to boost the local economy, stimulate work and have an interesting impact on his land. Green Chief were engaged as Waste & Recycling mangers during the event, putting in place the popular Canaconda installation piece, alongside re-useable Bin Stations and Big Butts in the main arena. To tackle messy campsites, made worse this year by the gale force winds that swept the event on the opening night, the Loot Ute (daily recycling collection) and Bag Deposit Scheme were put in place, with 70% of people taking part in an important initiative to increase the amount of recyclables salvaged from campsite with minimal man hours.

Although the  post event clean up took longer than expected-due to the increased size of the new site and increase in capacity  we can report that over 6 tonnes of recyclables were saved from landfill, saving:

  • 10 trees
  • 2 barrels of oil
  • 2952kwh of energy
  • 53, 000 litres of water
  • 2 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions

Overall, each festival goer produced 1.5kgs of recyclables and 25 grammes of compostable material that is currently decomposing and waiting to be used in revegatation projects over the winter months.

As usual the quality of staff was phenomenal, with over 65 willing and able volunteers, 10 local community members and 20 paid crew making sure the ‘ leave no trace’ policy, and Hughs’ farmland were kept intact. Thank you!