From food to fancy dress choices to waste management; festival sustainability is a huge topic and the eco-friendliness of a festival is something that is frequently becoming more and more important to festival fans and organisers alike.
There are arguments that festivals are unsustainable by their very nature as temporary settlements requiring tonnes of infrastructure to be put in place for a few short days of hedonistic escape… But I’d tend to disagree. I think festivals can provide a valuable platform for discussion and education about subjects like sustainability; I don’t think I would be as environmentally interested as I am if I didn’t engage so much with festivals! Additionally – all of us attendees would still be doing impactful activities at home; still eating, drinking or perhaps even choosing to fly off on holiday rather than festivalling!
Here are some of the most interesting and pioneering ways that eco-friendly festivals lessened their impact on the environment this year and pushed festival sustainability to the next level…
5 Pioneering Eco-Friendly Festival Sustainability Initiatives
Gone Off Milk
The Sustainability darling of the UK festival scene, Shambala Festival, have a list of green credentials as long as a very long thing – but we’ll just focus on their latest here! This year this eco-friendly festival added a ban on cow’s milk to their current ban on meat being sold from food traders on site.
Beautiful Shambala views this year
If you’re a veggie (like me!) or a vegan already and you’ve read much about the impact of the meat and dairy industry on the planet then this might seem like the logical next step. But actually, it’s a pretty complex issue and has been controversial even with Shambala’s relatively small & like-minded audience – to see what I mean, get stuck into the comments here! You can read more about the Gone Off Milk initiative here.
I also LOVED their call out for fancy dressers to create their costumes out of recycled materials and think more about more sustainable styling for their carnival costumes this year.
Read more about 10 reasons why I think this eco-friendly festival might be the best festival ever.
No more single-use plastic
This year Boomtown has taken big steps towards becoming a very eco-friendly festival by banning all single-use plastic, making everything on-site closed loop, including compostable bar cups in an industry first!
You might think this is a simple decision but consider all the aspects; no plastic water bottles means installing heaps more water points for everyone to refill with and bringing in some canned water for the bars. With traders and bars all using vegware, that means providing specific compost bins so that everything can be sorted and then sending it all to an industrial composting facility. It is a huge logistical mission that requires heaps more infrastructure and awareness!
Read more about Boomtown’s single-use plastic ban here.
I had a few people ask me this year why, if there was no single-use plastic, single-use cans were still allowed? Cans are infinitely recyclable (!) and recycling them saves heaps of energy and valuable resources, check out Every Can Counts for more info.
Meadows in the Mountains
Train Not Plane
It’s all very well being a totally plastic-free site (which Meadows in the Mountains is) offsetting your carbon emissions by planting your own forest (which Meadows also does) but if your 2000 attendees fly into your beautiful Bulgarian site from all corners of the earth then how are you truly being one of the most eco-friendly festivals?
According to Energy Revolution, audience travel makes up 80% of most festival carbon emissions… I imagine it is more than that if most of your audience is from the UK and travelling to Bulgaria!
Meadows are tackling this issue head-on with a great campaign called #TrainNotPlane encouraging their audience to embrace slow travel and make their trip to Bulgaria more slow and scenic by embracing much lower emission cross Europe train travel rather than quick high emission plane travel. This comes with an initiative for free festival tickets for the first few people to show them their train tickets! Love this blog which has tips on how to do it yourself.
Glastonbury – Shangri-La
Shangri-La Gas Tower
Glastonbury are well known for being one of the world’s leading eco-friendly festivals and for their big commitment to sustainability, championing the most sustainable ways of living in the green fields and beyond since the very beginnings of the festival…
Shangri-La are one of the areas at the festival that does this in the most thought-provoking way; “holding a mirror up to the masses, challenging people in politics and play” with their tagline of re-use, recycle, resist.
Recycling was a big topic, present throughout the whole area, and the theme this year was ‘Junkstapostion’. All the set was made out of recycled materials, the pillars of the entrance were made from air beds, broken tent poles and sleeping bags – serving as a stark reminder of the campsite waste problem.
Shangri La Gas Tower, photo by Coal Poet photography
The Gas Tower, which hosted a soundtrack of electronic heavyweights from the likes of Bicep to My Nu Leng, was made from 10 tonnes of recycled marine plastic!
The plastic was collected by volunteers from beaches in the South West as part of a project in collaboration with Keep Britain Tidy and ORCA – how amazing is that? Not only recycling a heap of plastic that would have ended up in the ocean but also creating a huge awareness campaign in the process.
This eco-friendly Thai festival has sustainability woven into its entire fabric, from the infrastructure to the messaging and ethos.
At Wonderfruit, our ethos is to encourage, develop and innovate creative solutions for sustainable living and bring together a global community to celebrate them.Wonderfruit Festival
They are certified carbon neutral, there’s no plastic on-site, food is composted on-site, cutting edge building techniques are used that mean some of the stages are simply slotted together to save materials, the delicious food offering is all locally sourced and the programme is chockablock with thought-provoking talks and workshops around the broad subject of sustainability… and that’s just a selection of their eco-credentials.
Wonderfruit imagine themselves as a pop-up city experiment, a potential utopia where more sustainable ways of living can be explored, discussed and potentially disseminated into the wider world. Read through their ‘pop-up city’ pages here to find out more about their fascinating ethos.
It’s amazing how many of these eco-friendly festivals are leading the way on environmental awareness campaigns and pioneering initiatives.
Aside from specific festival sustainability initiatives make sure you also check out industry-wide campaigns such as the Association of Independent Festival’s ‘Take Your Tent Home’ Campaign, ecolibrium‘s work towards offsetting festival travel, the Ecowarriorz roaming activists, A Greener Festival awards and conferences as well as Powerful Thinking, a think-do tank for working towards smarter energy management in the events industry.
If you fancy finding out more about how you can make your own event more eco-friendly, check out this guide from Spacehuntr.