Anna Borofsky 99 cleans up in the field
Anna Borofsky is
standing in the middle of a sea of trash at a former Air Force base
in northern Maine. The 1999 UVM graduate is about to spend the next
seven hours orchestrating the cleanup of 700 tons of garbage produced
by 70,000 Phish fans.
Its during moments like these that the co-owner of Clean Vibes,
an environmentally conscious concert-cleanup company in Portsmouth,
New Hampshire, wonders how her profession relates to her undergraduate
thesis on environmental education. If her ecological mission was having
such an impact on young concert-goers, why was she knee-deep in enough
refuse to fill a city dump?
After a brief scan around the former Loring Air Force Base-turned massive
receptacle, and the 70 people shes hired to clean it up, Borofsky
realizes that not only is she educating her employees, who include UVM
students and alumni, but also the people who responded to her companys
contest that resulted in the recycling of 100 tons of waste.
Other contests and promotions seem to be having a positive effect as
well. Borofsky is subtly educating a young generation of Americans in
a setting that may have a more lasting impact than more formal methods
of teaching about environmental issues.
Fans of jam bands like Phish and the Dead tend to think of themselves
as environmentally conscious, but their actions dont always show
it, says Borofsky. We like to call them hippiecrites.
But the fact that a lot of fans are responding to our raffles and other
ideas shows that theyre starting to respond, and that they share
the same values as us. I think were educating people in sort of
an alternative way. Even though I feel like a camp counselor sometimes,
Im getting the opportunity to educate an entire popular culture
Borofsky and her partner Evanglyn Morse devised a program that gives
fans who turn in five bags of trash a chance to win autographed CDs
and other band-related items. Green bags are distributed for recyclable
items and clear bags for trash. Handing in five bags gets fans an I
Help Keep The Scene Clean t-shirt and a raffle ticket for the
more coveted items. Borofsky has other ideas to promote recycling, such
as a food waste diversion program that would separate pre-consumer food
waste from trash produced by the 100 or so food vendors that work major
The response has grown, resulting in more cleaning up by fans, and an
easier workload for Borofskys crew, which has also become more
efficient. This combination has resulted in Clean Vibes being able to
cut its cleanup time in half. It took the company 14 days to clean up
Phishs Great Went Festival in Limestone in 1998, but only half
that time at the 2003 It Festival at the same location.
Cleaning up in the wake of four days of camping and partying by thousands
isnt what Borofsky envisioned herself doing as an undergraduate
in the environmental studies program. Although her commitment to environmental
education has never waned, it veered slightly off course when she started
working for Clean Vibes in 1997, then a division within Boston-based
Great Northeast Productions, as a cleanup crew member. After working
at such major Phish festivals as Clifford Ball, Great Went, and Lemonwheel,
Borofsky was given the opportunity to make an amicable break from Great
Northeast and run Clean Vibes with Morse, an environmental conservation
graduate of the University of New Hampshire.
Clean Vibes continues to clean up about a dozen of the worlds
largest concert events each summer, including Phishs Camp Oswego
festival and the bands four-day campout at Big Cypress Seminole
Indian Reservation, which drew 80,000 fans to the heart of the Florida
Everglades. Shes considering expanding into NASCAR events and
festivals with different fan bases such as Ozzfest, but she realizes
shes close to reaching the limits of what she can handle.
I dont see myself running around concert fields cleaning
when Im 40, Borofsky says. But there will always be
a need for it. Americans are messy everywhere no doubt about
it. I feel fortunate to be able to employ and support over 100 people
each summer. It provides an atmosphere where they can meet people with
similar interests and talk about their environmental beliefs.