Volunteers with Hillside's state-of-the-art Trash Turnaround wagon. (M. Ruby) Volunteers with Hillside's state-of-the-art Trash Turnaround wagon. (M. Ruby)

It’s just not the same without a family weekend at Hillside Music Festival at Guelph Lake. I've been going since my small business was in its infancy: in 2006, my husband and I would set up a tent and sell our natural skin care products to festival goers. I was there when I was pregnant, with baby number one, and then again with baby number two.

My children have experienced this unique festival at every stage of their childhood, from being pushed around in strollers to wandering by themselves. It's the type of culture I want them to absorb as a representation of what can happen when you like-minded people create a space for a weekend of sun, fun and music.

When you arrive at the Hillside parking lot, visitors get on a school bus that transports them into a different world, one with no plastic water bottles, cutlery or paper plates. A big water truck allows everyone to hydrate using reusable bottles and take advantage of stations for composting, recycling and returning used dishes washed, dried and stacked for use again by volunteers.

Hillside plates and stainless steel cutlery and have their own bin as part of the Trash Turnaround system. They are washed and dried to code again and again over the weekend, until they await the next Hillside. 

Food vendors are all small businesses offering a diverse selection of healthy eats. The beers, meanwhile, are from local microbreweries; the wine from local vineyards.

It's a community of people prioritizing respect, peace and kindness, and the good vibes they generate are abundant. I see this energy spill onto the musicians who typically seem so relaxed and appreciative of a crowd of chilled-out music lovers.

Yes, you will hear people say "Happy Hillside", which can feel a bit saccharine, especially to cynics like me. Yet within an hour of arriving, I'm saying it myself.

There are numerous tents offering workshops on everything from beekeeping to Bollywood dancing. There is a spoken word stage and drumming tent. And then there's the music, the most indie of indie bands you can catch before they’re huge, including, more than a decade ago, when Arcade Fire played Hillside before they became international stars.

The only pressure you will have over the weekend is making it to the best performances, since you’ll hear about it if you don’t. I find myself going through the guide with a fine-toothed comb trying to make the right decisions.

If only I could live at Hillside year round. A near-zero waste community of supportive people bonding over music is my kind of place. For now, we'll enjoy our perfect weekend every summer and take those Hillside values home with us.

Jessica Burman is the founder and owner of organic skin care line Cocoon Apothecary. She likes getting down to the bottom of things and exposing toxins lurking in every day products, and blogs for A\J about how everyday consumer choices can effect your health and the state of the planet. She is passionate about ditching synthetic chemicals in favor of simple, time-tested alternatives. She lives in Kitchener and is a mom to two youngs girls and too many pets. 

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