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Davis, California

Sunday, March 3, 2024

Volunteers at the Whole Earth Festival weave together community, sustainability and memorable experiences

Dedicated members reflect on the essence of the Whole Earth Festival


By FAITH DEMEULENAERE — features@theaggie.org

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Nestled within the vibrant grounds of the University of California, Davis, the Whole Earth Festival is an annual celebration of music, art and sustainable living. 

While the festival attracts thousands of visitors each year, it is the dedicated volunteers who are the backbone of the event. For enthusiastic newcomers like Eva Jabbari, a first-year environmental policy analysis and planning and international relations double major, and returning volunteers like Josh Winter, a recent alum who majored in computer science, the festival is a transformative experience that fosters a sense of unity and purpose.

The Whole Earth Festival, which began in 1969, is hosted on the Memorial Union Quad during spring quarter. Throughout the three-day event. artists and vendors set up booths and various bands perform for the crowd. In 2022, Winter joined the Quad stage crew. This role demanded physical stamina and a keen eye for swift stage changes. However, it was the strong sense of camaraderie that struck Winter the most. 

“Many of the people I worked alongside have been Quad stage volunteers for over a decade,” Winter said. “I met a lot of great people that weekend, many of whom I got to see again this year.”

Many volunteers like Winter and Jabbari are familiar with the volunteer saying “WEF love,” which, according to Winter, portrays the “special sort of connection formed between everyone involved in making the festival happen.”

“There’s a feeling of belonging, acceptance and duty when working together to create the event,” Winter said.

WEF is a zero-waste event, which the volunteers agree can be quite exhausting at times.

In an effort for the festival to be a zero-waste event, all food vendors are supplied with reusable cups, plates and utensils,” Winter said. “There is a never-ending supply of dirty dishes throughout the entire festival. Somebody has to collect, transport, wash, dry and distribute the dishes — and that somebody is the staff and volunteers of the Whole Earth Recycling Committee.”

According to Winter, dishwashing facilities at the Segundo Dining Commons and the CoHo are set up during the festival. Volunteers also sort waste in accordance with Whole Earth’s sustainability goals.

“At ‘Compost & Recycling,’ a team of eight volunteers and I got to sort compostables from recyclables [and] landfillables in the festival’s trash,” Winter said. “It got gross, but I was in good company throughout it all.”

Jabbari said it was empowering to participate in a zero-waste effort. 

“I volunteered at the dish return for a bit and while it was a bit hectic at times, given the amount of traffic we got, […] it was awesome to be a part of,” Jabbari said.

According to Winter, Whole Earth is an opportunity to be “a part of something bigger” and continue a tradition in the community.

“The Whole Earth Festival fosters a sense of community and helps welcome the spring and the hotter weather because it gets people out and about on campus in a fun and rather historic manner,” Jabbari said. “I couldn’t believe how old the festival was until I went to the volunteer non-violence training and heard some stories from people who’ve been attending Whole Earth since the 1970s.”


Written By: Faith DeMeulenaere — features@theaggie.org