Eco Event Planning for Offgrid Gatherings / Festivals
In this post, guest author Lucya Lalita Kostiw is writing about how no-tech eco events are organized. The most advanced eco events / gatherings / festivals all unite the same spirit of tribe, which is the Rainbow mentality. Since our guest author has the deepest experience with the utopian-minded consciousness sphere, this article primarily examines the organization of Rainbow Family eco gatherings.
The events can get quite big and complex, so apart from certain offgrid implications, everything here is valid for any eco event. We will cover event planning topics for eco events with utilities and direct roadside access in another post.
BrainHive Founder Joe Goerbert at Cosmic Convergence Eco Festival (NOT an offgrid festival 😉 )
The Art of organizing a temporary gathering that makes people feel like HOME – aka a Rainbow Gathering
You hear the drums, you see the fire, you smell the earth, you get all the hugs you have ever needed and wanted in this life in the first hour after you arrived. You know you are home! Home in this case is a place as far outside of developed society as possible. A home in nature, like we have lived over millennia. It is a temporary home with people you don´t know – but still it feels more like home than every flat or big and beautiful house ever could.
How do these eco-conscious people do that? A bunch of hippies somewhere in the woods, a tarp under which we cook on the open fire, holes in the ground to do your business in and lots but lots and lots of space for playing, dancing, relaxing and loving each other’s presence. All this carries the incredibly comforting feeling of something that somehow got lost in society: True togetherness, flow, trust, love and songs that become your favorites after a week.
The Story Behind the Rainbow Gathering Eco Events
It all started somewhere in the 1950´s in North America. While others were partying and drugging at Woodstock, another group of eco conscious people went into the woods with no electricity, no running water, and no sanitary systems and recultivated the art of living in and with nature.
They had no drive to drug and dance to loud, electronically supported music. They wanted to celebrate life in its most natural way: Sitting together around a fire, listening and dancing to drums and guitars, cultivating deep conversations and conceptualizing structures to make decisions in a communal way.
Nowadays these gatherings are way more structured, organized and visited by much more people. In the US gatherings reach about 10,000 people. In Europe there are about 2,000-3,000 people at the European gatherings and between 100-600 people at the local gatherings. Rainbow people call the place of the gathering their home and the other people their brothers and sisters. The whole tribe is referred to as family. And, believe it or not, this is exactly how it feels.
Eco Event Money Rules: The Non-Commercial Aspect of a Rainbow Gathering
One of the most amazing things for me personally about these eco gatherings is that they run almost without money. There is no entry fee, no food stands, no rent the family has to pay to stay on the land, no water nor electricity to be paid. Food is shopped by a crew of volunteers from the money that lands in the “magic hat” – a hat that gets passed around after the “food circles”, the commonly shared meals, which happen twice a day. Everybody donates what they can as a contribution for food and other necessities but nobody is obligated.
Tasks and duties are as well commonly shared amongst the visitors: Cooking and serving food, collecting firewood, giving workshops, playing with the kids, building certain areas, decorating, making music, giving healing sessions (ranging from sound, to touch to yogic, massage or incense healings, amongst others).
Everybody does what they feel called to do. When there is no firewood and you think it would be nice to have some so we can be warm at night and keep the sacred fire going, you scream “firewood mission”, wait 10/15 minutes and go get it with the other people that feel like it would be nice to have some.
Eco Event Area Planning: The Areas of a Rainbow Gathering
Most gatherings, especially the bigger ones, have the following areas to ensure that there is a space for everything the family needs:
The parking area is the closest place that people can reach with their vehicles before they have to walk the rest to the actual gathering place.
The welcome center is close to the parking and provides the first welcome, guidelines and information, tea and some food for the arriving family members. Here the magic begins.
The main area is the area around the sacred fire which is lit during the opening ceremony at new moon. A gathering always follows the moon cycle and starts and ends at new moon with full moon being the energetic center point.
Around the sacred fire is as well the place for coming together and sharing food during the day and music and dance and cuddles at night.
So it only makes sense to have the kitchen area nearby to be able to carry the heavy pots to the dining area.
The children have their own area as well so the parents and whoever loves to play with the kids can get together and find playmates in a safe and secure area.
The healing area is usually a bit further away from the main area to allow people to rest and withdraw from the high life around the sacred fire and the kids area. People go there to give treatments, do Yoga, relax, meditate and do the quieter type of workshops.
The camping areas are not explicitly designed areas but rather strategic places to not be in the way and naturally group together where it is convenient.
Defecation pits, the holes in the ground to do business in are dug all over the place in the more hidden corners.
Usually the family that organizes the gathering owns a few tipis and bigger tents where the workshops take place that need a little more privacy, like womens/mens circles, heart sharing and talking circles or other more intimate get togethers.
A dry composting eco toilet, more luxurious than you’d find at your typical Rainbow gathering
To make such a gathering works out well for a high number of people under these very basic conditions, it needs a few guidelines around hygiene, safety and the shared tasks. These guidelines and regulations are for the most part not ideologicalbut common sense and based on experience of what works and what does not.
Example of how utopians see the topic of medicinal knowledge
They are shared by the older family members and passed down to the newer. Mostly in the welcome area and usually after the first food circle there is someone who announces a circle for the newcomers to explain a bit around the philosophy under which we gather and the guidelines to make the gathering work.
The most important guidelines at these eco events are:
Cover feces with ashes and earth that has been dug out of the defecation pits and left next to it to fill it back up. Scattering ashes over all fecal matter and wet composts is a great way to keep flies away, ultimately also preventing diseases.
When you want to serve food you need to wash your hands and grab the plate underneath and not at the side to likewise prevent for example diarrheal diseases from spreading.
When you see a job it is yours. Don’t wait for anyone to do it. If you don’t know how to accomplish a task find someone who knows. Usually a gathering consists of 75-85% experienced members and 15-25% newcomers.
No alcohol and other drugs (certain psychedelica for medicine work are usually tolerated under safe conditions, alcohol is the least common and least appreciated substance at these eco events. The most common recreational is Cannabis)
No dogs or other pets (The one rule that is least obeyed by many Rainbow family members who see their dogs as part of the family)
Non-violent communication: Use “I” messages, let others finish, respect and tolerate different opinions, don‘t get loud, no verbal and absolutely no physical aggressiveness.
The magic hat aka donations: Give what you want and can, but do try and give.
Collect your trash and take it out to the nearest trash collection place or take it out when you go back to civilization.
No soaps, shampoos and other sanitary products which are not biodegradable. And even those who are: Do not use them on the lake or river. Take water outside in bottles to wash yourself when you want to use soap.
Keep the water source clean. A spring is a very fundamental necessity of a gathering place and is considered sacred because it provides clean water for the family.
Be respectful of other people’s sleep in the camping areas.
Bring no tech. No smart phones, laptops, cameras, etc. Just a torch is welcome. If you need to have a phone with you, use it in your tent and don’t bring it out.
Respect people’s privacy by not taking pictures. These eco events tend to have no problem at all with nudity, and knowing no one is recording let’s everyone enjoy the ease better.
Structural Processes at Rainbow Family Eco Events
Every country has a core family that scouts for places, starts the set up (2 weeks before the gathering starts officially) and keeps the tents and tools during the time when there is no gathering in the country. A lot of countries have their usual months for their gathering. Portugal for example does one in spring and one in autumn every year. The place for the bigger international gatherings are decided communally in the vision councils where people can make suggestions and explain why it would be good to do a gathering in this particular country.
Cooking and cleaning is organized communally. Usually there is always someone awake. Some people like to go sleeping at 5 am and some get up at 5 am and do their morning yoga or meditation practice. So whenever a person feels hungry he or she can go to the kitchen and see if there are already people starting breakfast and if not start it themselves. Every other activities like workshops, firewood missions, shopping missions are organized voluntarily as well. And this usually works quite well!
There is an opening and a closing ceremony at the new moons that are the starting and the end point of a gathering and a full moon celebration at full moon, Usually a team of volunteers gets together a few days before to organize it. When the gathering is over, there is a cleanup team that tears down the structures, collects trash and does their best to leave no trace. Painted stones or wooden signs are often let there as a reminder for other visitors or scouts.
Gotta keep her safe- Picture shows a ruined stretch of lakeshore at Atitlan Lake, Guatemala
Eco Event Planning: Communication Structures
Because the land is usually quite big the announcements especially of the food circles need to be heard everywhere. Remember, there is no cell phones or speakers or even radios!
How the Rainbows’ eco event organizers do it:
There are 3 food circle calls. The first one means we are starting, the second one means we are about 80% through so please start coming to the main fire and the third one is food is ready and will be carried over to the sacred fire.
The kitchen starts these calls and every individual or group that hears it counts to 3 and then repeats the call “food circle”. Other people who are closer to those who passed on the call hear it now and pass it on themselves. Other common shouts are “help in the kitchen” or “firewood mission” and they are passed on in the same way.
The first and second food circle is the main communication hub for sharing info, love and concerns. After food and after the magic hat goes round there is the time for announcements. People step into the middle of the circle and shout “focus family” to get the attention of the others. They then say what they have to say and make room for the next. Talking circles are another way of communicating things more for a smaller group of people who are interested in a certain thing.
There are organizational talking circles, for example for food missions. There are heart sharing circles for just coming together and sharing what moves us in good or bad ways. There are the vision circles to speak about the future gatherings and there are mens and womens circle for coming together amongst our sisters or brothers to help each other heal and work through more gender-specific issues. And of course there are lots of individual or smaller group talks going on spontaneously!
Another important communication form are painted signs, for example to the water source, the defecation pits, the different areas or just to remind of important things like “Love” or “Breath” or “Be in your body and feel the earth under your feet”.
Improvements that Could be Made at Such Eco Events
Especially with the rise of the internet and the moral, political and psychological downfall of society the Rainbow gatherings are faced with a trend of more and more newcomers. This is great on the one hand because in my opinion everybody should experience this lifestyle, but it comes with new difficulties on the other hand.
A lot of newcomers are disconnected from the roots of the gatherings and see it as another festival or the next entertaining thing. Often as well the eco events are seen as nothing more than a free holidays or a way to get excessive because of the level of freedom. That makes even more communication about guidelines important. The outer world guidelines I mentioned above but as well the inner world guidelines of togetherness, self-responsibility and responsibility for others and the spiritual components.
I see that we only have a chance when people feel the internal call to obey both the outer and the inner world guidelines because they see and feel that it makes the gathering more enjoyable for everybody. In terms of written documentation and task papers I see the advantage but as well the logistic difficulties in terms of printing and handing them out.
Eco Event Planning: Conclusion
Rainbow gatherings have been brought to life as a very idealistic idea that works brilliantly in its own messy way. The structures have been formed over generations now and passed on mostly verbally.
The gatherings are a tech free zone which I absolutely appreciate because it is one of the last tech free zones we are holding in our generation and this makes room to be in the present moment with what is relevant around you. This makes digital processing and documentation harder of course. so we will rely on painted signs and verbal communication in the future.
The welcome centers usually do an amazing job by educating on the guidelines but ultimately it is the responsibility of every single visitor to keep up the spirit and use mind and heart together to keep creating these amazing last resorts of freedom, love, peace, harmony and togetherness!
About our Guest Author: Tantra Coach Lucya Lalita
Lucya Lalita is an embodiment, consciousness and Tantra coach from Germany with over 6 years of practicing different forms of heart-opening therapies, including inner child work, touch therapy and sensitivity trainings. She is currently on a mission to co-create a school for soul-realization nestled within the new paradigm communities at the Atitlan Volcano lake in Guatemala. Working at the JungleLab, a micro-coworking space by BrainHive, it is an exquisite opportunity to be supporting one another in our coaching and impact work.
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