Music festivals are continuing to grow and evolve around the world as the consumer demand for live music increases. While festivals can be positive for the economy by providing employment and support for the local community, each resource that is required for a festival takes a big toll on the environment, with the most significant impact coming from excessive foot and vehicle traffic.

The Impacts:

Poor waste management, excessive water and energy use, and emissions generated from transportation and travel are partly to blame for the impact. However not all of the responsibility should be placed on the organisers when each year thousands of festival goers are neglecting their unwanted items after the festival is over. Attendees are treating tents like they are disposable, being the most common item left behind, with the misconception that abandoned tents are donated to charity. However this has been proven untrue in an online article published in the UK, with the Director of Festival Waste Reclamation and Distribution, Matt Wedge, stating that up to 90 percent of neglected items become landfill and “unwittingly add to our waste problem”.

As more of these environmental issues arise, festival organisers face increased pressure to make more sustainable changes when planning and organising their events. Most festivals have taken on many different sustainability challenges by introducing measures including renewable onsite energy, recycling, water conservation and reducing noise and light pollution. However more can be done from the organisers and festival goers to ensure the environment is being cared for during and after the event.

Sustainability Efforts:

Festival organisers around the world can take advantage of the many different resources that have been developed to help them to sustainably manage and deliver their events, from software tools to not-for-profits and consultancies established to help organisers plan and manage sustainable events. A Greener Festival is one of these companies. AGF is committed to helping organisers by providing certification, training and facilitating the exchange of best practice. Another is Green Events, which works on reducing the environmental footprint by customising plans for organisers looking to create ‘greener events’. Organisers can also make the choice to use locally sourced food and drinks which will not only further support the local economy but will also reduce the emissions that come from transporting foreign goods to and from festivals.

As for the festival goers themselves, there needs to be a change in attitude with many forgetting that festival grounds might be “literally someone’s backyard which is also a working farm” as stated by Festival Director of Body & Soul in the UK, Avril Stanley.

It is clear that many festival goers are unaware of the impacts leaving their belongings behind has on the environment and the volunteers, and therefore more responsibility needs to be placed on festival goers by enforcing rules and education. The sales of disposable ‘festival tents’ are also to be the blame for this neglect.

As for reducing emissions from travel, incentives can be used to encourage carpooling, as previously implemented by Coachella in the United States. Carpoolchella incentivises festival goers to travel with 4 or more passengers to the event in the hopes of winning VIP passes and other prizes.

Make Your Next Festival Greener:

Our tips to minimise your impact at your next festival?

  • Don’t leave your trash behind! Tents, rubbish, wristband, food waste – it doesn’t matter what you’ve brought, take it back home with you.
  • Minimise your carbon footprint – carpool or take public transport, and shop local for supplies.
  • Reduce plastics – take refillable water bottles if permitted, recycle and choose stainless steel (reusable) or cardboard (biodegradable) where possible.
  • Minimise food waste – if camping, plan your meals or share the prep with your mates so you’re not left with a stash of uneaten food at the end of the weekend.
  • Volunteer – festivals need volunteers to stay viable (and volunteering in the aftermath of a festival gives first-hand experience of exactly how messy and lazy some festival goers are – there’s nothing like picking up someone else’s trash to remind you to clean up after yourself!)

These steps however small they may seem will end up having a significantly positive impact on the environment and the future of festivals, and will only continue to improve as we move forward and adopt more sustainable practices.


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