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Reduce, Replay, Recycle: Pickathon's Sustainable Stage

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Located 20 minutes from downtown Portland, Oregon, Happy Valley can be as idyllic as the name suggests, especially during the annual Pickathon Music Festival held last weekend. Organizers of the 17-year-old event have worked hard to keep it that way by enacting a number of sustainable practices and production methods, including an experiment in green stage construction. Run in partnership with professor Travis Bell and graduate students from Portland State University's School of Architecture, the concept has provided a sustainable example for summer festivals and music venues.

"Sustainability is one important ethical stance that people take," says Bell. "I feel like that's the thing about Pickathon, its made up of a bunch of people who want to do the right thing."

After building smaller stages at the event the previous two summers, the student-led design and construction team took on the challenge of building a 1,000-person stage this year. As part of a 10-week course that leads up to the event, the students looked at a zero-waste construction practices and ways to divert materials from landfills; after submitting different designs, they settled on stacking massive, industrial cardboard tubes, four-to-six-foot-long cylinders normally used like toilet paper rolls to hold sheet metal, to build a honeycomb-like stage. Trucked out and assembled on site, the tubes were bolted together on the ends, forming a venue that played host to performances by Ex Hex, William Tyler and more, as well as a light show. But as quick as the stage was built, it disappeared. All the material will be repurposed and reused after the festival, and even the portions of the huge rolls that were bolted together will be shredded and used as raw material to make more tubes.

"We had a lot of kids climbing all over the stage, and while we were supposed to ask them to come down, secretly, we loved it," says Bell. "All in all, it's a very cool and ethereal experience."

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