Laura Risk, interviewer / Liz Knowles, takeaways

Club Passim in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has eliminated all plastic water bottles from their venue. Laura chatted recently with managing director Matt Smith about the “why” and “how” of this decision. Below are the takeaways from the interview. Read the full interview on the blog. STAC encourages all venues to go plastic-free!


It is visible. 

Waste from plastic water bottles is always visible but particularly so on a stage, where it is impossible to ignore. 

Plastic water bottle waste piles up, day after day. 

It is a no-brainer. 

The bottom line is that we have too much plastic floating around the world and it is never going to decompose. Says Matt Smith about making the switch to reusable bottles, “Long-term it’s going to help everybody, and I’d rather be on that side of it!” 

We need to move away from our cultural association of plastic with easy use and easy waste. 

Does the very nature of plastic water bottles —their design and materials—instill a culture of waste? How many times have you seen half-drunk bottles littering a stage or venue floor? Even unused plastic watter bottles are often left behind, treated as trash. The water they contain is treated as disposable. 

Time and energy.

Clean-up of waste takes time and staff. Shipments of water are expensive. Pallets of water take up lots of physical space, particularly noticeable in small venues. 


First, just decide to do something. 

It is really that simple. Intent and attention will point the way. Matt Smith says that at Club Passim, they simply decided, "That’s it. It’s over. Today.”

Get the right bottle for the space you have

  • Determine what model works for your venue. Bottle style should match your washing style and this depends on your washing equipment. Do you have a sink or dishwasher? If a dishwasher, commercial high heat or residential grade? Note that a bottle for high-heat commercial washers needs to be more substantial than a bottle that will be hand-washed. 

  • Bottle style must match its user. The material and design of reusable water vessels depends on who is going to use it and how. Glassware, for example, might be fine for table service but not for the musicians on stage, as glasses can tip and spill and are easily broken.

  • How many do you need? Have one for each artist that will perform. Club Passim bought one dozen (12) stainless steel water bottles.

  • STAC thoughts: We recognize that each venue’s solution from a financial standpoint might necessitate different choices. For example, you might choose to display a venue logo on the bottle or use the first purchase of reusable water bottles as an occasional promotion. You might also choose to sell some bottles as a fund-raiser and use the proceeds to purchase bottles that will stay at the venue.

Make clean filtered water available.

  • Install a water cooler in the green room for refilling, preferably one that doesn’t need a replaceable plastic drum. (You can get a big five-gallon drum and refill this with filtered sink water, depending on your facility and location of water lines.) 

  • Install filters on taps in sinks.

Create a culture of sustainability at your venue.

  • Create a “new normal” for your venue — for artists, staff and audiences. 

  • Audience: glass carafes of water on each table and glass or metal cups for everyone. 

  • Educate by example.  Says Matt Smith, “It’s just a recalibration.”

  • Think about how to respond to contractual riders such as, “We need a flat of 24 bottles.” Send a response that indicates both the WHY— your interest in reducing, reusing and eliminating plastic from your venue— and the WHAT: what you will provide instead.

Complaints from artists?

Says Matt Smith, “So far we have had zero complaints. A lot of artists have even been talking about it onstage. ‘Hey, this is great, Club Passim is doing this now, I wish everyone would do it.’”

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